They were friends living in three states and the District, and on an October weekend they converged on Howard University for Homecoming. A few were alums, others just came for the fun.
Hours after arriving Oct. 20, and minutes after leaving an all-night party at the historic Howard Theatre on T Street NW, they were robbed by men toting shotguns, police said.
“We walked right into it,” said Patrick Ricks, 28, of Richmond, a 2003 Howard graduate. “Once we saw the guns, we gave them what they asked for.”
D.C. police say they think the same men who held up the group robbed again in the early hours of Oct. 21, holding up four people near campus.
Police said that in the second robbery, which occurred about 2:50 a.m., one of the attackers had a shotgun. Authorities would not say whether the victims of that crime were connected to Howard.
On Tuesday, police released two photos of a man detectives want to question and said the robbers escaped in a 2006-2008 Nissan Altima or Maxima with tinted windows and D.C. plates beginning with a “D.”
The pictures show a shirtless man with tattoos across his chest. In one of the photos, he is holding a cup and it appears he is standing in front of a sliding glass door . In another, he’s laughing as he stares at a smartphone.
Cmdr. George Kucik, who heads the police’s criminal investigation division, said he couldn’t discuss the origin of the photos. He said that the robberies “are somewhat unique because of the shotguns.”
The robberies occurred as students and visitors grappled with an unusual series of crimes at the campus in the Shaw neighborhood, including the rape of a student in her dorm, police said.
Ricks said he saw new safety phones and lights when he visited his old campus. “But it’s pretty much the same old D.C.,” said Ricks, a filmmaker. “You have to be on your guard. And we weren’t.”
He said his group — from the District, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin — came out of the theater and had walked about a block when a car pulled up near a dark alley and the robbers, whose faces were covered, jumped out. Police said the robbers stole money — some of the victims had $200 in their pockets — and smartphones.