The ICPD reports:
On October 31, 2012 at approximately 11:33 p.m., Iowa City Police officers responded to Black’s Gaslight Village at 422 Brown St. for a report of an armed person. While enroute, officers were informed that there were two separate calls from people reporting they had been robbed. Multiple officers flooded the area, but were unable to immediately locate the suspect. Upon speaking with the victims, it was learned a male approached them, displayed a black handgun, pointed the gun directly at them, and demanded their purses. One of the victims ran into a residence and got away from the suspect while the other gave the suspect her purse and he then ran away to the east on Brown St. Both of these robberies occurred within a couple minutes of each other at separate locations in the complex and it’s believed both were committed by the same person. An undisclosed amount of property and money was stolen during these robberies, but fortunately no one was injured during this incident.
From speaking with the victims and witnesses, it was determined the most accurate description of the suspect was a thin black male, approximately 5’10″ – 6’0″, in his 20′s-30′s wearing a dark blue or black hoody with white writing on it, dark pants, and dark shoes with white edges. The suspect also had a red bandana covering his face during the robbery.
The Daily Iowan followed up and talked with one of the victims:
She sat on her stoop late Tuesday evening following a rehearsal shortly before midnight. The 24-year-old graduate student was making a phone call to check up on a close friend who lived in New York to see if he was affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“I sit on the stoop a lot; I am used to people walking down the gravel path, but I usually know all the people walking down there,” she said.
The woman, who requested anonymity, noticed the unfamiliar figure walking down the path but couldn’t decipher who he was from his body type and fairly good posture.
“He was coming at me and walking casually. As he got 10 feet away from me I saw the red bandana. I jumped up and grabbed the door handle, but he got right in front of me and pulled the gun out of his sleeve,” she said. “[He] said something, but it was muffled, and I screamed and hurled myself down the stairs and one of my neighbors saw him walking away.”
The roommates quickly responded to her screams and called police, who responded shortly after.
The University of Iowa released a Hawk Alert shortly following police investigation stating there was an armed robbery that took place on the 400 block of Brown Street, and a tall skinny, black male wearing a dark hoodie and pants with a bandana over his face was walking toward Van Buren Street.
This incident is not an anomaly.
Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said although she was unable to provide specific numbers, there has been a noted increase in the number of robberies in the last year, and unfortunately the setting lends itself to these issues.
“We have an opportunistic environment that people will come here because there is lots of foot traffic, and people in this age range will have iPhones and iPads and laptops,” she said.
Brotherton said that while police will investigate the situation and search for the suspect or suspects, students and community members need to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Yet the 24-year-old victim, who hails from a big city, said that in general, most students and young women should be provided more education and self-defense training, even though she considers Iowa City a “safe community.”
“I walk downtown by myself all the time, and I’ve never had any problems, and I guess I am really rethinking that,” she said.
Karla Miller, the executive director for the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, said awareness of your surroundings is extremely important when out alone or with small groups.
“We encourage people to be aware of what kinds of situations might occur and encourage people to get a good understanding of how perpetrators work and how they are different,” she said.