The Dillard University community was reminiscent of the safe atmosphere they once inhabited at the gated Gentilly campus, when several Dillard students were robbed at gunpoint early Friday morning, April 20. The students were robbed during an informal gathering at Spanish Plaza near the Riverwalk Mall.
It was the first time students had gathered near the Spanish Plaza and at that time of morning it was really dark. Students came together for a relaxing time as they listened to music, played cards and danced.
Moments before the incident, a student was called by his friends to come and join them a game. Minutes later, three males walked up to the gathering with guns and garbage bags in hand, instructing everyone to strip, said Brandon Smith, sophomore mass communication major.
The robbers took several articles of clothing from Smith and many of the other males. After the incident he just went to his room without talking to authorities.
“I don’t like talking to cops.”
During the incident the females didn’t have to remove any clothing according to Channing Bias, a freshman business management and music major. Bias overheard one of the assailants say it would be disrespectful for them to do so because he thought about his own sister. Bias then recalls everyone being ordered to lay on the ground with their hands clasped behind their heads.
“(It was like) my heart was beating out of my body during the robbery,” she said. Bias placed her cell phone in her bra, but the robbers took her purse with all her credit cards and identification.
Smith and Bias said that when the robbers took the belongings, they then told everyone to close their eyes and count to ten.
The culprits are described as three African American males with dreadlocks standing around 5 foot 9 inches tall.
The New Orleans Police Department responded very quickly once the emergency call was made. The University was notified immediately and provided counseling for those involved the following day.
“The university is aware of the situation and is working swiftly with the authorities,” Maureen Larkins, Director of University Communications and Relations.
The Riverwalk robbery has brought a new enlightenment to the Dillard administration. A town hall meeting was held on Saturday, April 22, to get feedback from the student body about precautions that can be made to prevent such things from happening again.
President Hughes says the proper authorities are taking “swift and firm action” to deal with the aftermath of the robbery.
DU police chief Willie Brouder also says that DUPD and NOPD are “exhausting all means” to find the culprits.
But Dillard University must turn over all responsibilities to the NOPD when criminal matters occur -leaving the affected students in the dark until the NOPD does a proper investigation. Brouder has not given any further details on how they are going about finding the culprits.
The town hall meeting was scarce in attendance; however Dr. Hughes was extremely concerned. During the meeting President Hughes read a list of issues that was submitted to her by worried students. The list included the following:
- There are too few activities for students after 11 p.m.
- Outsiders know more than students
- There is not place for students to socialize other than the second floor
- There is a lack of visible security
DU administration plans to put together more recreational activities for the Dillard community. The incident is currently still under investigation.
NOPD Street Smart Safety Tips
Tips for Working, Living and Playing Downtown
1. Shop Smart
Use Credit Cards instead of cash
Carry fewest items possible (reduces you as a thief’s target)
Keep your wallet or purse under your direct control
Keep major credit cards and ID separate from wallet
2. Walk Smart
Look confident and be aware of your surroundings
Avoid isolated areas and cutting through parks, vacant lots and deserted areas
Don’t leave on foot or in a vehicle with someone you just met
3. Play Smart
Do not allow strangers to give you directions and/or accompany you to your hotel, night clubs, or other attractions
Don’t allow strangers to show you "where the action is"
Be alert to distractions that may be staged by pickpocket teams
4. Travel Smart
Don’t enter your hotel room if door is unlocked or open
Don’t answer your room door without verifying who it is
If someone claims to be an employee, call the front desk to verify
For more NOPD safety tips visit http://www.nopdonline.com/tips.htm