Two Yale students were robbed at gunpoint in a Timothy Dwight College suite in the early hours of Monday morning, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins wrote in a University-wide email two hours after the incident.
As of Monday night, the YPD has not issued any updates about whether the robber has been apprehended by police. In an email to the TD community sent on Monday evening, Head of TD Mary Liu said upgrades to the college’s physical security are in the works, including the installation of cameras at the front and rear gates of the college, scheduled to be completed by Wednesday; an assessment of the lighting in the college; and an increase in “police and security presence” in TD for the rest of the semester.
When confronted by the two students, the intruder brandished a handgun and stole a computer before fleeing the college, Higgins wrote in the email. Neither student reported physical injuries. YPD officers are investigating the incident and have increased the number of patrols in the area.
“We’re very grateful to our friends, deans, heads of colleges and professors who have reached out to check in with us,” said the two robbery victims, who asked to remain anonymous, in a statement to the News. “The community has been incredibly supportive. We’re also grateful to the YPD for their continued work on this case.”
Liu emailed the TD community on Monday morning to assure students she had spoken with the victims and “that they are fine though understandably shaken.”
A Yale Police Department officer spoke with the News about the details of the incident, but requested anonymity to relay material he was not authorized to release publicly. The two students involved did not include a description of the incident in their statement to the News.
As of Monday afternoon, the officer told the News, the YPD had not identified a suspect in the case. The two students involved told police that the perpetrator was a black male between 30 and 50 years old, wearing a puffy jacket and carrying a light blue drawstring bag, the officer said.
In the early hours of Monday morning, the officer said, the two victims left their suite, which was propped open with a hanger, to use the hallway bathroom. When they returned minutes later, the officer said, they heard a noise coming from one of the the bedrooms. On entering the room, the students saw the man sitting on the bed, holding computer charging cables.
Asked what he was doing in the TD suite, the officer said, the man replied that he was in the wrong room and claimed that he was a security guard. Either one or both students then told the man they did not believe him and blocked the exit to the suite when he attempted to leave. At that point, the officer said, the man pulled a black semi-automatic pistol out of his bag and pointed it at the two students. The students then dropped to their knees, and the gunman exited the room. The students said the man fled the college, but that they did not see which direction he went, because they were running upstairs to another friend’s room, according to the officer.
Three or four other students told YPD officers at the scene that they had seen the same man in their common room or knocking on their doors, trying to get into their rooms, according to the officer.
Asked to confirm those details, Higgins responded that the incident at TD underscored the need to report suspicious behavior promptly.
Police appear to have responded quickly to the incident. Sweyn Venderbush ’18 commented on a Facebook post written by one of the victims at around 1:30 a.m. Monday morning that he had seen about “8 police cars in the past 2 minutes” while walking across campus. Venderbush told the News he saw a police car drive “full speed through the walkway in front of Sterling” and an officer on a bicycle “booking it in the direction of TD.”
The armed robbery inside a Yale suite came on the eve of Bulldog Days, the annual admissions event that showcases Yale to high school seniors who have been accepted to the college.
Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said the University does not believe the armed robbery will affect Bulldog Days. She said it was an “upsetting incident,” but that crime in New Haven is at its lowest level since 1985 and trending downward.
Administrators in various residential colleges sent Yale students messages about the incident on Monday. Head of Jonathan Edwards Mark Saltzman told his students that “the security of our college depends on all of us” and offered advice on how to safely travel through gates and doors without leaving them open to people outside the University.
“We know the low-tech method of sticking a hanger on suite doorknobs is a popular way of making sure no one gets locked out if they forget their keys, but this also can have unintended and frightening consequences,” Head of Branford Enrique De La Cruz and Dean of Branford Sarah Insley wrote to Branford students.
When Kenneth Xu ’21 arrived back at his TD dorm at 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, he said he heard a commotion outside and soon saw police officers searching a nearby TD entryway. After noticing that one of the two victims had posted about being robbed at gunpoint in the TD Facebook group, he warned his hallmates to lock their doors.
“I was really shaken that night, since I realized that it could have very easily happened to me,” Xu said. “Usually I feel safe in the vicinity of TD, but not anymore.”
Lui, the TD head, said that both Higgins and the Yale administrators who handle emergency responses were informed immediately after the incident was reported.
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