Dear PoPville – Bystander to a cab robbery, wondering what you would have done in my shoes?


“Dear PoPville,

Friday night I was leaving a friend’s house by myself on 11th street around 9 PM. I was walking up 11th, passing Columbia Rd when I saw 3 kids (15-18 years old?) try to hail a cab. The cab slowed down, some words were exchanged, and then the cab sped off without any passengers. The kids were then able to instantly hail another cab and crossed 11th to get in (on the west side of the street). One got in the passenger side, two got in the backseat, but I thought it was odd that none of the doors of the cab were closing–even after 10 seconds. What I also realized was that moments earlier when they were crossing the street, their faces were covered with bandannas (it was cold out last night, so in and of itself, this didn’t strike me as a cause for concern).

I instantly took out my phone and called 911. I was on the phone with the dispatcher when I heard the kids yelling something like “give us the money.” I also saw bodies moving around inside the cab. From behind it seemed like the assailant in the backseat was restraining the cab driver while the assailant in the passenger seat was robbing him.

The 3 assailants ran out of the cab: 2 went West on Columbia and 1 went East. With no cops in sight, should I have followed the solo assailant that went East towards Columbia Heights while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher? Should I have tried to take a video or photos of the events once I got suspicious? I’m left feeling like I should have done something different.”

56 Comment

  • You could have followed safely from a distance, but even that is taking a big risk.
    I think the best thing you could have done was gone to check on the cab driver and see if he was in need of medical assistance.
    I guess this will probably just feed into the cab drivers’ paranoia of “certain people.”

    • I was about to say… so those are the “certain people” cab drivers actually stop for? The ones with bandannas over their faces (I mean unless they weren’t “certain people”. awful euphemism by the way)?

    • Sadly, the robbing of cabbies in this town is a pervasive problem. I sat on a Grand Jury for 3 months and heard at least 3 cab robbery cases – some of them very frightening.

  • You did more than most. Don’t second guess it–you did the right thing.

  • You did the right thing.

  • unless you are superman, you did the right thing. if you are in fact superman, id think you’d gone soft on us.

  • Following would have been a bad idea. Calling 911 was the right thing to do. Beyond that, stay on the scene and give your account to police

  • Are you looking for a pat on the back or something? Why is this even a question?

  • By calling 911, I’d say you went 1/1.

  • If the driver had installed a card reader like they should have there shouldn’t have been that much money to steal.

  • OP, you did the right thing. Following the assailant could’ve put you in danger yourself.
    These things happen so quickly that usually by the time you think about noting the people’s clothes, let alone taking a photo or video, it’s over. Sure, it might have been good to have taken photo/video if you’d thought of it at the time, but you can’t fault yourself for not thinking of it until after the fact. You were not remiss in your actions.

    • Besides, a lot of us are so paranoid about having our phones out on the street that pulling the phone out to take a pic is not at all an instinctive action.

  • I’m lost. What did you do other than call 911? I’m probably sure other people saw and did the same thing. ..As I’m pretty sure the cab driver called dispatch and or 911….you was just A witness. Tell the police what you saw and keep it moving geeze.

  • jim_ed

    You did the right thing. No need to follow someone and potentially get assaulted/killed over a couple hundred bucks that ain’t yours to begin with.

    However, you said “their faces were covered with bandannas (it was cold out last night, so in and of itself, this didn’t strike me as a cause for concern).”

    You give people far more benefit of the doubt than I do. I don’t care how cold it is out, if someone’s got their face covered with a baklava or bandanna, I’m assuming they’re up to no good.

    • “I don’t care how cold it is out, if someone’s got their face covered with a baklava or bandanna, I’m assuming they’re up to no good.”
      +1. I find it particularly concerning when it’s, say, 55 F out, and there’s no way someone could possibly need a balaclava/bandanna to be warm. It does get me thinking “There oughta be a law”… but I’m sure it would be shot down on “freedom of expression” principles.
      I fail to see any legitimate reason for covering one’s face in public (other than for women wearing niqab).

      • What about all the Chinese tourists that do it for health reasons?

        • Generally speaking that’s not a legitimate reason.

        • “Health” reasons, our air is much more clean than Shanghai. Why coddle them?

        • Dunno if this goes for Chinese tourists, but in Japan, the people who wear hospital-type face masks are (generally speaking) doing so because THEY have colds and don’t want to pass them on to other people.
          In Bangkok you often see moped riders wearing hospital-type face masks or bandannas in the hope that they won’t breathe as much pollution while on the road.

      • I think there is a law. It seems to get around in the news every Halloween that adults who wear facemasks are breaking D.C. law. I have a feeling instances like this are the reason behind it.

      • When you’re out walking/biking and it’s really cold, covering your face makes sense.

        • When it’s REALLY cold, yes. Most of the time I see dudes wearing balaclavas in D.C., it’s not all that cold, and I don’t think they’re doing it to stay warm. (I mean, I’m pretty cold-averse, and I managed to get by with a hat and scarf — maybe covering my mouth and chin with the scarf if it’s really, really cold.)
          I admit I hadn’t thought about the bicycling aspect — I guess cold air probably feels even colder to bicyclists, because they’re whipping through it.

      • People don’t cover their faces with bandanas for warmth. People use scarves for that. Ski masks and bandanas are used by thugs for disguise.

    • jim_ed

      I just realized I wrote Baklava instead of Balaclava, which is embarrassing. Although, I think my rule still applies if someone is hiding their face with Greek pastries.

      • gotryit

        funny, I was just sitting here reading your comment while stuffing my face with Baklava, wondering if someone was going to tackle me for not eating neatly. It’s sticky and messy – it’s not my fault!

      • I thought that was cute – and an amusing image, too!

    • baklava = a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.

      balaclava = is a form of cloth headgear that covers the whole head, exposing only part of the face.

      Humorous mistake

      • baklaklava = the sticky mess that gets all over your face from eating too much baklava, leaving only part of the face exposed.

    • No disrespect meant, but baklava is a delicious pastry and a balaclava is a face mask. And no this does not fall under the correcting people’s grammar rule – this is confusing two completely different nouns.

  • I wouldn’t have emailed Popville.

  • Like most bad situations, you COULD have done more, in hindsight. However, I wouldn’t fault you for what you did in the situation at all, and believe you certainly surpassed your obligations as a good Samaritan. Regret often comes when you see harm to others. I want to reassure you that you should know you’ve done a good job and not feel bad at all.

  • I wonder why cabs don’t stop for some people…..hmmmm

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