Mt. Pleasant Resident Recounts Disturbing Robbery at Gunpoint

Photo by PoPville flickr user Lauren PM

Thanks to all who forwarded this disturbing incident.

At 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, my daughter, a friend of hers and I were robbed at gun point by two men at the corner of Newton and Mt. Pleasant. We are all “OK,” but I am very angry and sad.

Here are the details. The three of us were walking west on the south side of Newton. As we approached the crosswalk, I noticed two men walking the same direction as us, one in front and one back to my right. The one behind grabbed me and one in front whirled around and pointed his gun at my head. They told the girls to get into the intersection and keep their eyes down or I’d “get hurt.” They emptied my pockets (cell phone, handkerchief, car and house keys, and billfold). Then they took my daughter’s friend’s purse (cell phone inside). They told us to keep our eyes down and start walking away down Newton. After we turned the corner we ran to 18th and Newton. We started shouting and a woman from Newton let us use her cell phone to call 911.

The police came in about 2 minutes. The officer drove us around Newton, Monroe, Ingleside and then south of Park, while many other police cars were also circling around. Eventually, the officer asked my daughter and her friend to go with another set of officers in their car, in order to get our statements separately. Eventually, we all got back home.

Things I’ve learned so far:
1) Neighbors are the best!

2) Beware of two guys walking the same direction as you, one behind and one ahead. The one in front slowed down and blocked us, while the one behind closed in. It’s like a squeeze play. Makes me sick.

3) Remember the robbers’ shoes. When they kept telling us to keep our eyes down I didn’t want to, but I should have used the opportunity to study and memorize their shoes. I had more time to look at their shoes than any other part of their body or clothing, but now I can only remember that the shoes were black.

4) Give away your money for a good cause. Ironically, we were walking home from a fundraiser at St. Stephen’s Church. I had given almost all my cash away.

5) Thank God for strong and calm teen girls. My daughter and her friend were thoughtful, helpful and safe. While I hated that they we were victims with me, I am also thankful for their presence and composure.

95 Comment

  • That is horrible. I was outside standing on the sidewalk talking to neighbors right there at 18th and Newton when the officers responded. We wondered what all the commotion was, but did not get in the way. It makes me sad that this continues to happen in our lovely neighborhood.

    • Lovely neighborhood??!!!

      • Yes, Mt P is, in fact, a very lovely neighborhood. I’ve lived in Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Dupont, Logan, and Mt Pleasant and I think Mt P is the best of them all. There is a wide range of ages, races, families; the art and music scene is unparalleled; and there are tons of things to do. I’m pretty shocked that this happened where it did. Hope the OP and family are all doing okay and hope they catch the guys.

      • Yes, lovely neighborhood. That’s why this was so shocking.

        • Though it happens with regularity in Mt. Pleasant. It’s a great neighborhood… when you’re not getting mugged.

          • Whatever.

          • So I guess when some kid has a gun shoved into your forehead while demanding your wallet, the first thing that goes through your mind is, “I love Mount Pleasant. Gee, what a terrific neighborhood. I wish every day in Mount Pleasant could be like this.”

          • I was objecting to the characterization of robbery in that area as a regular occurance. There was only one robbery (perhaps this one?) within 500 feet of that location in the last year. Maybe in all of Mt. Pleasant mugging is more common, but it’s hardly a daily occurance.

      • Lovely city….

        Relative to other close-in neighborhoods Mt. Pleasant has a good track record on muggings, maybe even the “best” in that there are fewer muggings than in other sectors according to the crimes stats.

        But muggings unfortunately do still happen and I’m sorry to hear about this one. Thanks to the victim for writing a thoughtful report that explained both how it happened and what he could have done differently. Seeing one, let alone two guys, like this would send me across the street, into the middle of the street – basically change up my direction to throw off the flow. I don’t sense near as many potential threats as I did a decade ago – in Mt. Pleasant or elsewhere – but this is a city where staying vigilant while walking along is still a necessity.

    • Why does no one ever give a description of the perps. Where they black or Hispanic, how old? yada yada

  • Yikes. Scary. Glad you’re all okay.

    Good tip about the shoes.

    • Agreed – I would have never thought of the shoe thing.

      Also, I always tell people to make their phones PIN-locked, so they are effectively useless to robbers. Sometimes these can be worked around, but most robbers are not tech-experts, and regardless, it gives you time to call your cell company and freeze your account.

      I also recommend people freeze their credit in case your wallet and ID get tossed and used by people more nefarious than common muggers.

      • houseintherear

        Unfortunately, freezing your credit is a GIANT pain in the neck, and requires many paper letters to be sent and then more letters when you need to open credit again.

        I don’t have a Citibank card or account, I opened a credit watch service with them. $12/month and they update me constantly, it’s fantastic. It’s on their main website.

        • FYI- $12/month is too much– call them and ask for a better rate. I did that last year and they lowered it to $5.99/month.

        • Freezing is really not that big of a deal, and unfreezing it the 1-2 times a year you need it is pretty easy.

        • Freezing your credit is THE smartest thing you can do. It is easy – now you can do it online – no more letters. You will never have your identity stolen if you freeze your credit. Plus you can temporarily life the freeze when need online or via phone. Not too bad for all the protection. Way cheaper than a monthly fee. Plus, if someone does open a credit card under your name if you didn’t freeze it and your monitoring service picks up on it, it too late. Your identity has already b been stolen and you will have hours of hassles getting it fixed.

  • Reminds me of living in Cap Hill when 4 guys appeared like they were going to do that “squeeze” play on me right by my house. I was approaching my house, but instead of giving them opportunity or letting them know where I live, I just got into my car a few meters away and drove around for 20-30 minutes. I’d never “run away” from a situation before, but something felt fishy about how they were walking relative to me. Who knows if anything was going to happen, but as the letter writer warns, keep aware of how others are walking around.

    • Few years ago, I was walking home from PanAm market, and got a skin-crawling feeling like the guy behind me was up to no good. Walked right past my house, and started talking to a random unknown neighbor a few houses down. “Beautiful evening, garden looks great” etc. The guy following me turned around and walked back the way we’d come. I didn’t go into my house until he had turned the corner. I was shaken for an hour, and nothing had even happened. I haven’t gone back to PanAm market since; he had broken away from the crowd loitering there.
      Awful thing to happen to the OP. I hope they catch the perps if for nothing but your peace of mind.

    • I had a similar thing happen to me a couple of years ago as well at a gas station late at night. I pulled up, started to pump and noticed four teens motion subtly in my direction, started walking towards me while one in the back checked left and right. I just put the pump down, hopped in my car, and drove off. I watched as the kids stopped, turned around, and went right back to their “lookout” post while I called the cops.

      I’m not a huge fan of racial profiling, but in DC, sadly, you have to employ it to a great degree. People will declare that this is “racist” or “prejudiced”, and while I agree that it represents a prejudicial notion, it is also a form of survival in DC. I am convinced that consciously changing my route when I see people that make me nervous has saved me from being robbed more than once.

      • I don’t have a problem with someone walking on the other side of the street, stepping aside to let me pass, grabbing their purse, whatever, if my presence makes them nervous. Do what you need to do. As long as you don’t start blowing whistles, screaming, spraying mace, or some other similar behavior directed towards me because of some inchoate fear that I’ve done nothing to provoke. As long as your prejudice doesn’t infringe on me, have at it.

        • Well put. Until those skinny white hipster kids start jackin’ people for their wallets, racial profiling is an unfortunate necessity for everyone, regardless of race.

          • Emmaleigh504

            I’m more a fan of age profiling than racial profiling. I like to keep a large amount of space between me and teens/young adults of all colors. Mostly because they can be obnoxious (yes I was their age once and I was obnoxious) and b/c they tend to do the muggings and beat downs.

          • I would agree with Emmaleigh–teenagers scare the bejeebus outta me.

          • I get so scared when I’m around those St. Albans kids!

  • by “beware of two guys….” what exactly are you supposed to do? Have a head’s up that you’re going to be robbed?

    • I guess if you see them a block away, try to quickly head to a more crowded area, or start calling 911 asap. Or, start screaming, blow a whistle if you have one?

    • Use your gut. Your fear is a gift – and when your gut goes off, trust yourself. Immediately stop, turn around, conspicuously cross the street, do SOMETHING that makes it clear you know what he/she/they are up to and are taking action to protect yourself. (Also, get your whistle ready if you have one.) Usually, robbers are after the low-hanging fruit, and if it looks like you’re going to be a hassle they’ll leave you alone and wait for an easier target.

      A few caveats: first, this is only effective before a gun is pulled: once the assault begins, you comply. Second, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT if your gut doesn’t give you a warning. If you have it, use it – and if you don’t, just survive however you need to.

      • Frightening story.

        Agree with advice from MS above to trust your gut. I’d recommend reading the Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

        • +100000000. brilliant book

        • I was going to make the same comment re. recommending “The Gift of Fear”… it outlines how there are often things that you might not notice consciously that register at a gut level and give you that fear instinct.

          If your gut is telling you that something is not quite right, pay attention to it.

  • Why do they call it “Pleasant” when there’s so much crime there?

  • This is too scary. Robberies seem to be occurring too often in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Districts. Why is DC Couniclmember At-Large Phil Mendelson silent on these type of crimes? He chair the Judiciary Committee overseeing MPD. Mendelson never post on any of MPD listseves. I am glad these criminals didn’t to harm to you.

  • Wasn’t there a similar incident discussed here in recent weeks… something involving a guy in front and a guy behind, boxing people in on the sidewalk?

    Sounds like the same M.O., and maybe even the same muggers.

  • holy crap…..i’m moving into that neighborhood TOMORROW. i’m leaving 14th & taylor (which i’ve always considered super sketchy, have been harassed many times both physically and verbally) for harvard & argonne. i was under the guise that it was safer. apparently, i’ve been misled….?

    happy to hear that the OP and her children survived this ordeal! be safe 🙂

    maybe i should start unpacking these boxes…?

    • 14th and Taylor ain’t Mt P, but you should probably be careful up there too. A friend of mine lived there a few years ago and someone was shot right at that corner.

      • i’m confused about your response, steve. i have been living at 14th & taylor, and (as i mentioned) have been harassed many times. i guess i was just asking PoPville if harvard & argonne is “safer” (not exactly a quantifiable thing, i know) than 14th & taylor.

        i guess i’m just trying to say: steve, i KNOW 14th & taylor is NOT safe. at least not for a single woman at night.

        • You can refer to the DC Crime map and evaluate for your personal safety standards if it’s safer.

          PS It’s technically Lanier Heights, not MtP.

          • PSS Harvard St is the boundary of Mt Pleasant, one side MtP, the other side Adams Morgan (or you can subdivide that into “Lanier Heights” if you want).

        • I would guess Harvard & Argonne to be significantly safer than 14th & Taylor due to the former’s proximity to the major 16th St/Columbia Rd/Harvard intersection, the Metro, numerous bus and circulator routes, and significantly more people on the street due to more ground floor retail.

          If you would like to “quantify” safety then you can check out the DC Crime Map put out by the MPD.

        • No discussion forum is going to give you an objectvie answer to whether one neighborhood is “safer” than another. What you will get are subjective opinions based upon experiences – often secondhand: my friend lived in X neighborhood and he was robbed; so-and-so told me this part of town is sketchy. Everyone has their own level of tolerance and comfort. You think 14th and Taylor is sketchy. I guarantee that you can find people who don’t think it’s sketchy (even non-sketchy people who feel that way).
          If you really want an objective answer to the question of whether a neighborhood is “safer”, you’d be better off consulting the statistics on DC crime, which are readily available through the website. You can use tools there to plug in any address and get a list of all crimes within x number of feet from that location. You can see a breakdown of crimes by wards as well.
          I can understand your concern as a woman. But a report of one crime – even an armed robbery – in your new neighborhood does not mean you need to rethink your plan to move.

          • Crime map is not necessarily accurate, I don’t report the things happening to me in Petworth and I know my neighbors haven’t either. So it could be misleading. But certainly useful for those documented killings and child gunplay.

            It’s not necessarily about location, it’s about perps and their scheme. It’s about proximity to public housing and targets and dark easy to escape streets/alleys. These guys for all we know are coming in from Anacostia to do their deeds for they know there are easy targets. It’s also about our city’s tolerance of kids with guns, and a failed DYRS, and cycles of poverty and truancy, and 20 years of violent rap music pumping problematic messages into the brains of our youth.

            Forget the crime map, I want a violent offender app complete with photos, history, and current address.

        • I’m confused too. seems like I didn’t really read your post. nevermind.

    • OP was a male FYI

    • Mt. Pleasant is a really nice area, as people have said before. It breaks my heart that something like this tarnishes what is otherwise a really nice, friendly, diverse neighborhood. 14th and Taylor is much sketchier – if you can survive there you’ll be fine in MtP.

      However, if you’re moving into the Argonne, I’ve heard they have some security problems – be careful who you let in behind you.

      • I only had positive experiences at the Argonne for 3 years. The front door staff – especially Francis – are extremely friendly and helpful and know residents and regular visitors by name. I would say that the side door by Pica Taco doesn’t stay closed as much as it should, so it’s worth being a little extra cautious coming in that door at off hours.

        • +1. I live in the Argonne too (nearly 4 years now) and have never once had a problem. Francis knows everyone. But I agree about the Pica Taco door – after dark it’s better to use the front entrance.

    • so i followed multiple PoPvillians’ advice and checked the crime stats for my new ‘hood. according to the official numbers, 14th & taylor IS safer than harvard & argonne 🙁
      the numbers could be misleading, i’m sure, as perhaps 14th & taylor isn’t as well-monitored as harvard & argonne. although it always seems that there are plenty of cop cars around my current place…i don’t know. in the end, the lease is signed, and the movers are coming tomorrow. so, hopefully it works out 😀

      (sidenote = i’m not moving into the argonne)

      thanks for the advice, everyone.

      (oh, and to J Ro…i know it’s not “technically” MtP, i just meant that i was moving into a place fairly close to where this robbery went down)

      • I moved from that area to an area that scared me and checked the crime maps too. Same thing, yet in opposite. 3x more actual crime in 3D than my new hood in 4D, yet while I lived in 3D nothing ever happened to me. Since moving to 4D 2 crimes so far, unreported for fear of my life from retaliation. The big difference you miss is that the walk from all the great “services” of Mt. P, Adams Morgan, U St etc is way way easier and less scary than the walk from those fine places to deep deep in the hood (almost like 14th and Taylor). Once you’re in no-mans land where streets are deserted and empty yet “filled” with unknown and randomly seen hooded boogey men, you encounter a whole new world of fear.

  • Stella, cross the street immediately! Or walk down the middle of the street. Turn around, stop heading west towards the quiet part of the neighborhood and head back up towards Mt. Pleasant Street. Also, get on the phone to describe them to somebody so if they cut your throat the cops can match their description to the next robbery survivor.

    • I’ve walked down the middle of the street as well. Pretending that you’re hailing a cab can also work if you’re in the middle of the street.

      One of these days soon, someone (probably white) is going to shoot or Taser a mugger (probably black), and then we’re going to have a riot. As the temperatures increase, crime increases, and gentrification keeps pushing poor (and largely black) people out, things could get bad. I really wish the new mayor would start making some statements about his dedication to cracking down on the resurgence in violent crimes.

      • “Pretending that you’re hailing a cab can also work if you’re in the middle of the street.”

        useful idea. this particular intersection doesn’t have through traffic except during the morning rush, however. I’m pretty sure it’d seem crazy to hail a cab when there are no cars anywhere near.

    • I’ve been in a similar situation with a big guy following close behind me. I took out my phone and pretended to call “Steve” and said loudly, “Hey, almost there, yeah, right around the corner, can you come meet me at the street? I don’t remember which house is yours.” It worked, and the guy turned off onto another street.

  • Wow, crime in DC and other cities seem to be out of control in this bad economy. I am surprised hoodlums haven’t started to steal gasoline, due to the high gas prices.

    • I think you may start seeing gas siphoned off soon actually. Good reminder to get a lockable gas tank of you street park at night.

      • Don’t all cars have locking gas caps these days (i.e., ones that you have to pop open from the inside of the car)?

  • Why do you think the police responded so quickly? Did the fact that there were teenage girls involved have anything to do with it?

  • Be aware that the squeeze play is used on the metro, too.

    I was walking down the escalator when the man if front of me suddenly stopped and I felt the guy behind me going through my purse. Thankfully, I felt what was going on and asked him what he was doing.

    I realized later that when the guy who was in front of me and stopped had motioned for me to go ahead of him, it wasn’t to be polite but so that I’d be stuck and his partner could try and get my wallet out of my purse.

  • I lived in Mt. P from 1989 till last year and have always had the notion that the part of the neighborhood north of Park was a bit sketchy. There were (are?) the drug dealers that hang out at 18th and Monroe and the punks that used to make the Bancroft playground kinda scary. However, I think it’s gotten much better in recent years. I also lived in the Embassy Apts at Harvard/Argonne/Mt. P St and felt quite safe walking around there at night. (I’m a middle-aged female) A few homeless types in the park and the occasional crazy person muttering to himself, but still all family to me. Now I’m near 14th and Arkansas (close to Taylor) and still feel reasonably safe walking around at night.

  • “Another reader recounts a non-disturbing robbery at gun point..”

  • I’ve lived in “Lanier Heights” (it’s Adams Morgan, enough of these bogus neighborhood names) for 2 years and have spent a lot of time in Mt. Pleasant. I love the neighborhood and even after this incident, I would still wholeheartedly move there if the right place came up. Same rules apply to all urban dwellers: keep your wits about you, walk on well-populated streets, be sober, and don’t carry around electronics in plain view.

  • How is it that the victims don’t say whether the robbers were white, hispanic, black etc? Have we reached that point in our society where we are so afraid of being branded a racist that we won’t even describe the person that robbed us?

    As for the question of racial profiling, I see nothing wrong with racial profiling in DC. The reality is that crime itself is not related to race. But crime IS related to economics and the fact is that around here the poor neighborhoods are all black.

    This is the cold hard fact of where we live and we should not be afraid to consider the odds when it comes to personal safety.

    • That’s why the OP never mentioned race. It’s assumed. Is the assumption itself racist? Considering the odds, probably not.

    • Teen caucasian hipster hooded gangsters from Iowa. Nothing can stop them now. I really do wonder, how many DYRS kids from Iowa are on the street on any given day, with known records of burglary, armed robbery, carjacking. Time for a weekly FOIA request, unless MPD and Metro Police would prefer to give us a weekly update.

    • It is a given that they are black. There is really no point in saying it since we all know it’s true.

      I don’t think it’s a fear of racist-labeling; just the fact that everyone knows they have to be black, just like we assume the OP is white because they’re reading a blog in the middle of the day, sipping a latte in their Aeron chair, typing on their MBP…. oh wait, that’s me.

  • Just a few responses. 1) From those of you who offered it–thanks for the support. Being neighborly to one another is one of the most important lessons for me in this. In order to protect identities, an editor deleted some specific examples of how three of my neighbors responded within minutes to support our family. 2) I think it’s weird to designate an entire neighborhood or city safe or not based upon this incident. 3) I didn’t describe the assailants’ physical characteristics in my email to my neighbors because I thought describing their actual behavior is much more important and helpful to others. Also I remember their behavior much more clearly than their physical characteristics. 4) The description of the respondent “mugged” does sound like the same modus operandi.

  • You lost me at #5. You need to thank the robbers for not killing you. Your previous parenting and lessons and your own actions and attitude during the ordeal were the examples they followed. That and you had Tiger’s Blood in you.

  • On Friday night, Detective Antoine Weston Friday night came and told me they had arrested the guys who robbed us. The man with the gun confessed.

  • you can either pretend to hail an invisible cab, or pull out a real gun. when will DC finally get its Bernie Goetz on? All it would take is one yuppie with a pistol to make every degenerate teenager in the city think twice. jus sayin…

  • Guns for law abiding citizens are the ONLY solution. Perps will think twice… and get shot once!

  • As the Detective who closed this case. I must say that all of you have brought up valid points. I think the maturity of the young ladies involved in this case and the calm of the author in the face of peril made this case a success story. As a detective I have counseled many of the businesses in the area on safety awareness. I will in my one and only post here leave you with a few thoughts or rules:

    1. The GOLDEN RULE. Never ignore your first sense. If you feel something isn’t right or someone on your near personal space isn’t right do not be afraid to walk across the street or into a populated or well lit area. In this day of political correctness we have to put that aside in the interest of PERSONAL SAFETY.

    2. Always be aware of your surroundings. As police officers we are trained to be “hyper vigilant”. You as citizens need to train yourselves to be also. Pay attention to where your walking or who’s behind you. Never walk home the same way twice in a row.

    3. Earphones/headphones are a NO NO! If it’s well after dusk and your walking home. No matter how populated the area that your walking in is. Stay off the cell phones and Ipods. It takes away from rule #2, being vigilant. Those who wear them are who most assailants target.

    4. If you see something that doesn’t seem right call 911! We, as law enforcement have a responsibility to you. We took an oath that all of us take seriously to protect you and your property. If someone looks suspicious, call 911.

    5. If you somehow find yourself a victim of a crime turn over your property and DO NOT fight your assailant. Your property can be replaced you or your loved ones can’t. If you can get a good GLANCE at the assailant’s, get it. Noticed I didn’t say look. You don’t want to be conspicuous about the glance but just enough so you can provide the primary officer who responds to your scene with a good lookout of the assailant(s). A good lookout consists of race, gender, height, weight, complexion, hairstyle (If you can see it), clothing, facial hair, what was said to you and if there was a weapon involved, a good description of it.

    6. If your going to go out be mindful of all the above rules and take either a cab or walk in a very populated area. I know during this time of economic stress we all cant afford valet parking or parking lot parking but it does come with its plus of security.

    7. LASTLY do not walk in areas with dim artificial lighting and heavy foliage where if something were to happen to you no one would be able to see you.

    Thank you and I hope this list helps!!

    If you have any questions, the author of the piece can direct you to me.

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