William Genova ’15 jump-started his week by chasing down a burglar.
When Genova woke up on Monday morning at 9 a.m., he saw a stranger in his room — located in the Elmhurst apartment complex — with his laptop in one hand and its charger in the other. Genova said that he confronted the burglar — identified by police as New Haven resident Eleam Djamal — and snatched back his computer. Although Djamal handed over the laptop, Genova continued to question the burglar, who threatened violence if he was not permitted to leave the room. When Djamal fled from the student’s room on the first floor of the apartment complex, Genova chased after him.
“It was a situation where it was basically fight or flight, and I was not going to let him take away something that my parents worked so hard to give me as a graduation gift,” Genova said.
According to a Monday email from New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman, Genova was barefoot when he left his Elm Street apartment to chase down Djamal. The two ran through backyards and over a number of fences until the burglar cut through the parking lot of the Courtyard Marriott Hotel at 30 Whalley Ave., stopping on Dwight Street. Hartman said that as Genova ran, he yelled for passersby to call the police.
Genova said that he decided to chase Djamal because locating the burglar would have been more difficult for police if he had been given the chance to escape.
“I didn’t want him to get away,” Genova said. “It was so overtly disrespectful that he came into my apartment to steal an item that has such high monetary value and holds so many memories.”
When Genova caught up to Djamal, the burglar claimed to have stolen nothing from his apartment. Djamal handed over a duffle bag to prove that he told the truth. Genova found upon inspection that Djamal had not taken anything from his apartment, but had stolen a laptop from his friend who lives on the fifth floor of the Elmhurst. Police later determined that the thief had also taken $40 from Genova that morning.
Genova said that had he not woken up, Djamal could have easily ransacked his apartment.
As Genova examined the bag’s contents on the side of the street, he flagged down an off-duty NHPD officer who was on his way home after working a midnight shift. However, when the officer approached the two, Djamal started running again. This time the police officer began the chase.
Hartman said that the officer eventually apprehended the thief, who fought until he was subdued by pepper spray. Djamal later confessed to detectives that he had stolen a laptop from the fifth floor on Saturday. He added that when he returned to the building on Monday, a woman let him into the building and he checked if any of the units’ doors were unlocked. Hartman said Djamal told detectives that he had cased the Elmhurst because he knew it housed a large number of students.
Hartman added that Djamal is a convicted felon in Pennsylvania with a record of burglaries around the country.
Students living in the apartment building said that the burglaries left them shaken, but they did not call for changes to Elmhurst’s current security practices.
Lara Sokoloff ’16, who lives in the apartment that was robbed on Saturday, said that although the burglary frightened her, she thought that changes to the building’s security system were unnecessary.
“It was mostly a freak accident,” Sokoloff said. “We have to remember that we don’t live in a bubble, and there are people that are thieves in the area.”
Catherine Wang ’16 — whose laptop was stolen on Saturday — echoed Sokoloff’s sentiment.
Wang said that she and her roommates felt relief knowing that police arrested the burglar. She added that outside of residents being more careful to lock their doors, she did not anticipate any significant changes to the building’s security system.
“It’s definitely something that’s troubling,” Wang said. “But it doesn’t drastically change any of my feelings [about safety].”
Police have charged Djamal with burglary in the second degree, criminal attempt to commit larceny in the fourth degree, larceny in the sixth degree and threatening and assault on a police officer.