Armed Robbery on South Campus
UB Student Robbed at Gunpoint Outside SBI Safety Shuttle
A student at UB was held at gunpoint in the Hayes Annex of South Campus at 6:29 p.m. on Monday night next to an SBI shuttle.
The suspect, a black male, approximately 21 years old, and 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-10, pointed a silver handgun at the victim and ordered him to hand over his cell phone and wallet.
The victim borrowed a passerby's cell phone and reported the robbery, according to the University Police Department.
Although UPD was on the scene within two minutes, students were not notified of the incident until at least an hour after the student was held up.
UB Alert is a free service provided by UB that sends out e-mails and text messages to students and faculty regarding on-campus emergencies.
The service, which students must sign up for online, is set into motion when either UPD or a senior administrator decides that students' safety is somehow in danger and requests that University Communications sends out a message.
UB Alert sent out a mass text message at approximately 7:38 p.m. warning students that a robbery took place in the "vicinity of [the] Hayes Annex on the South Campus."
The suspect, wearing baggy grey jeans, a grey hooded sweatshirt, and a blue NAPA racing jacket, can be seen in this security camera footage taken from Hayes Annex on the night of the incident. The suspect is first seen walking towards the camera, and then later seen walking away from it.
The UB Alert text message was joined by an e-mail that was sent out at approximately 7:37 p.m. alerting the UB community of the robbery and providing a description of the suspect's clothing.
University Communications was not notified to prepare a message until 40 minutes after the crime occurred.
"We [notified them] 40 minutes into the [incident],'' said UPD Chief of Police, Gerald Schoenle. "We had to verify what [information] we had because the description [of the suspect] changed."
According to Schoenle, the lag in alerting students was to ensure that the UB Alert message contained the most accurate information.
However, UB students feel that waiting over an hour to send out an alert that an armed robbery had taken place is unacceptable.
"I think that the [UB Alert notification] was sent out kind of late," said Mary Kate Connors, a sophomore speech pathology major. "I think [UPD] is a little slow [at alerting students]. You only see them once in a while and this isn't the first [crime] to happen."
Students also expressed concern over the discrepancy between the UB Alert messages that were sent out, the police report, and an official news release issued Tuesday morning.
The suspect was seen running toward Winspear Avenue, according to the UB Alert message.
The official complaint report, however, stated that the suspect fled to the Health Sciences Library.
UPD sent out an official news release on Tuesday, suggesting that the suspect ran off campus toward Main Street by the Main Circle.
This sort of conflicting information is common with initial reports, according to Schoenle.
"[A discrepancy] is pretty common when you get first reports. [When] we sent out those initial warnings we are trying to get the message out to people and a lot of times after the investigation [we find out more information]," Schoenle said. "Even our description was in fact a lot better in the final [release] we sent out because we had the chance to have to victim sit down and think about it a little better."
Schoenle admits that because there are conflicting reports as to where the gunman headed, UPD is not completely sure of his actual route.
"We are not 100 percent sure where he went, but we do have video of him running off of campus," Schoenle said. "My guess is that he ran to Winspear [Avenue] and then ran off on the sidewalk to Main Street."
A security camera stationed on South Campus captured an image of the suspect, wearing baggy grey jeans, a grey hooded sweatshirt, and a blue NAPA racing jacket, leaving the scene of the crime and heading toward Winspear Avenue. AT&T was able to track the victim's cell phone and located it on Kenmore Avenue.
"We have a lot of different cameras on campus. You can see the clothing but you cannot see the face. We have a really good clothing description," Schoenle said.
Students, however, are worried that their safety is affected by the police's uncertainly as to where the suspect went.
"Basically the guy got loose," said Angel Diaz, a sophomore business major. "You want to be safe and to know exactly where to go or where not to go."
Rebecca Novick, a sophomore business major, lives in Clement Hall on South Campus and wishes that the reports told students exactly where the suspect ran.
"I would definitely say that [knowing exactly where the robber went is important]," Novick said. "I want to be [told] to avoid certain areas."
Connors is confused by the conflicting police accounts.
"How do you get three different stories? That doesn't make any sense," Connors said. "How are you supposed to know [where it happened]? [UPD] should be more specific when it comes to something like that."
Although many students feel that this is a regular occurrence on South Campus, Schoenle disagrees.
"[It's a] rare event for something like this to happen on South Campus," Schoenle said. "It has at least been a couple years since we had a robbery on South Campus. I would encourage students to be cautious and use the SBI escort services. It is always better to be with someone else than to walk alone. This student was walking alone. Be cognoscente of your surroundings. There will be extra patrols on the afternoon shift for the rest of the semester. "
UPD reported a vehicle stolen at gunpoint from the Sherman Lot on South Campus at 5:33 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2009. In the press release from that incident, UPD reported that there was not a continuing threat to the campus community because the suspect had immediately left campus.
However, students feel that even extra patrol cars may not be the right solution to the problem of security around South Campus.
"I have seen [UPD] cars around, but there are some times where I have been walking and [I have thought] that if I were to be held up right now I would be helpless and there would be nothing I could do," Novick said.
Additionally, students feel threatened that these events are occurring earlier in the evening, especially since many undergraduate classes end at 9:40 p.m.
"It happens every few months and there is something wrong with that," Connors said. "I'm surprised at the hour. It's one thing if it's 3:30 in the morning, but this was so early. Next semester, I am going to have a class that gets out at that time, too, and it scares me. I think the police should be around all the time."