Rick Oleka and his girlfriend, Abby Sevcik, were on a walk Wednesday afternoon with Pablo, their newly adopted Australian shepherd, just 11 weeks old. They were in Shaw in Northwest Washington when Sevcik ducked into a CVS.
Oleka said he felt a gun pressed against him and heard the assailant say, “Let me get your dog.”
Another male scooped up Pablo, Oleka said, while two others took his phone and wallet.
D.C. police said Oleka was a victim in one of three armed robberies and a shooting that occurred Wednesday afternoon in a 35-minute span that started after 4 p.m. in Brightwood Park and continued in Shaw and Eckington and near the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station.
Those attacks include the taking of another pet — a 1-year-old French bulldog named Bruno — who also was nabbed at gunpoint about 15 minutes before Pablo was taken, police said.
Thursday evening D.C. police announced that Pablo was recovered in Northeast, and several arrests were made before he was reunited with his owners. Officials did not name those who were arrested or detail the charges.
“Detectives are still investigating and further details will be forthcoming. Pablo has been reunited with his owners. Efforts are continuing to locate the second dog, Bruno,” police said in a statement.
Pablo has been reunited with his happy owners!! pic.twitter.com/X84apU44hF— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) April 15, 2022
Before getting the happy news about Pablo, Sevcik said she was crying in her “fourth breakdown of the hour” when the lead detective asked to video chat. Once connected, she saw another officer holding her lost family member.
Once home, Pablo did “zoomies” around the yard, ate a big bowl of food and promptly went to sleep, Sevcik said late Thursday.
“He is shockingly normal. We were thrilled he remembered us,” she said. “We’re just so thankful, we’re all going to sleep so well tonight.”
Meanwhile, the frightening and frustrating ordeal of being victims of an armed robbery has started to set in for Oleka and Sevcik.
“It was broad daylight,” said Oleka, 30, a corporate lawyer. “There was a police officer not too far away. There was a security guard at the CVS. There were multiple incidents that they’ve seemingly carried out with this car, and at this point in time, they’ve escaped.”
The armed holdups come as the District faces a 30 percent rise in violent crime this year, driven in large part by a nearly 60 percent surge in robberies, from 456 at this time in 2021 to 725 this year.
Homicides, which rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2021, are slightly down this year, though carjackings and gunfire continue to raise concerns. Monday night, a 15-year-old was fatally shot in Columbia Heights, another sign of a city struggling to restore a sense of safety.
A Washington Post poll conducted this year found that 3 in 10 D.C. residents do not feel safe in their neighborhoods.
The first robbery occurred about 4:12 p.m. when four males got out of a vehicle in the 5400 block of Kansas Avenue NW, in Brightwood Park.
Bruno’s owner Jamaica Harvey last saw him on her Ring security camera video, when her boyfriend left their home and walked up the block. A short while later armed robbers took the dog.
A police report says the group approached a man as he walked his dog. One male displayed a gun and demanded Bruno and the owner’s personal items. The assailants escaped in the vehicle with Bruno, a cellphone and a wallet. Bruno had a red collar and black leash, according to Harvey.
The 30-year-old aesthetician moved to the District about a year ago from San Diego and is left with deep concerns about her new community. Chatter online even suggests residents carry legal concealed weapons, she said.
“You shouldn’t have to do that to walk in the community,” Harvey said in a phone interview Thursday. “You shouldn’t feel unsafe going to walk your dog.”
Harvey said that she is prepared to offer a reward to get Bruno home safely.
“I’m willing to do anything to get my dog back,” Harvey said.
Police said they think the same people grabbed Pablo at 4:29 p.m. outside the CVS at Eighth Street and Florida Avenue, just south of Howard University Hospital.
Oleka and Sevcik, 27, a professional singer, said they had gotten Pablo on April 2 from K-9 Lifesavers, a nonprofit rescue group that has added $5,000 to a $10,000 police reward. The couple said they initially planned to foster Pablo, who has black and brown fur and a blue eye, but quickly realized he was their forever companion.
“He’s just a showstopper,” Sevcik said. “Everywhere we take him out in public, people say he’s adorable.” She said Pablo is a mix and probably “not worth what the robbers thought.”
Police said they recovered the Audi.
Just minutes after Pablo was taken, at 4:38 p.m., police said they think the same assailants were in Northeast Washington’s Eckington neighborhood, where two men were reported shot in the 2100 block of Fourth Street NE. Police said the men suffered injuries not thought to be life-threatening. Police did not say whether the men were shot in an attempted robbery.
Police said they think the same group at 4:48 p.m. robbed a person at gunpoint in the 1300 block of Second Street NE, near the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station.
Oleka and Sevcik said the ordeal has them rethinking their place in the District. Oleka said he was frustrated by the initial response from police, saying it seemed a struggle for detectives to piece together the crimes.
But Sevcik said she has been heartened by the outpouring of support and help on social media.
“That’s a tiny silver lining in all this,” she said. “We feel very supported by the people of the District.”