Quinnipiac student robbed at gunpoint in Washington D.C.

By on January 12, 2019

Amanda Perelli | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
A Quinnipiac student was robbed at gunpoint while in Washington D.C. as part of a university-run political science course Friday night according to an email from The Washington Center.

Jack Onofrio, a senior political science major, was walking back from the NoMa Metro Station around midnight when he and a student from Miami-Dade college were pursued by three men, one of which was armed with a gun and the another with a switchblade.

“As as soon as I turned around there was a small black revolver right in my face,” Onofrio said.

In the email, Manager of Community Life at The Washington Center, Quintin Veasley, described the event as an “unfortunate incident” and advised the community to be on the lookout for the assailants.

Onofrio, who calls the incident a “crime of opportunity” says he remained calm despite the potential for a deadly outcome.

“They just said ‘drop everything, give us your money, give us your wallet,’” Onofrio said. “I dropped the keys and I took the wallet and threw it under a car.”

The situation escalated when one of the three men demanded Onofrio’s phone and Onofrio refused.

“I said ‘I am not going to give you my phone,’” Onofrio said. “He said, ‘You’re going to call the police’ and I basically just said ‘You’re going to pick up my wallet and keep the money and I’m going to run away.’”

Onofrio said he kept trying to reason with the men, while keeping laser-like focus on the nose of the revolver.

“It was like tunnel vision on the barrel of that gun,” Onofrio said. “I was more focused on him. I was looking him in the eyes. He had a ski mask on, so that was all I could really see.”

The man wielding the gun seemed nervous according to Onofrio, but became refocused when one of the other men asked for the gun.

“The guy with the knife said, ‘Give me the gun I’m going to shoot him,’” Onofrio said. “The shorter guy who had the gun went to give the taller guy the gun or at least turn towards him and as soon as I did that I  turned to run and two of us ran back to the Washington Center.”

Quinnipiac University has been sending students to programming at the Washington Center for 17 years according to faculty leader and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Political Science Scott McLean and this is the first time something like this has ever happened.

“It is sad that this incident occurred but I am thankful nobody was injured,” McLean stated in an email. “There is no reason to be concerned about security in the program. The students and I are housed here in a residence hall with 24-hour security, in a safe middle class urban neighborhood.”

The residential facilities are located in the NoMa neighborhood, or North of Massachusetts Avenue, which Onofrio said is a safe area during the day-time.

“You could go out, there’s moms out there with their kids, people walking their dogs,” Onofrio said. “It’s not a bad area. At night, it definitely can get a little dicey.”

Onofrio’s friend is also participating at the political science seminar, Inside Washington, which is put on by the Washington Center.

This student, who declined to be named, heard one of the men contemplate taking her instead of the money, according to Onofrio.

“I guess she had heard them say, ‘Fuck the money, let’s take the girl,’” Onofrio said. “I was just trying to keep myself between them and her just because obviously she was the more vulnerable one in the picture.”

Onofrio said that while the experience was shocking and frightening, he recognized that the robbers were appeared to be like teenagers looking for money.

The men, who have not yet been identified, are still on the loose, according to Onofrio. The D.C. Police Department sent out a tweet with Onofrio’s approximate description of the robbers, but Onofrio said it was hard to remember anything but the muzzle of the gun.

“Everything just gets kind of mixed together and the cops are trying to put out a description and all I can tell them 100 percent is there was a black handgun and a silver knife and a guy with a hoodie on,” Onofrio said.

Onofrio advises students in the program to use common sense when walking around at night.

“If you’re coming here and you’re concerned about your safety, don’t walk to and from the metro at night,” Onofrio said. “Take an Uber. If I had taken an Uber or a Lyft none of that would have happened.”

McLean said that Onofrio used good street-smarts given the situation, but acknowledged that in cities, events like this can happen.

“Our student used good urban common sense, but we are in a city, and sometimes even careful, street smart people can be targets of criminals,” McLean stated.

Onofrio said he has moved on and encourages other Quinnipiac students to come to Washington D.C., regardless and experience what it has to offer.

“It was a crime of opportunity and I just happened to be the person that they chose,” Onofrio said. “D.C. is safe, but at the end of the day it’s a city, and what happened to me just as easily could have happened in New
Haven or even parts of Hamden.”

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