by Juliana Walter
When students at The University of Tampa discovered that two of their fellow students were threatened by an armed stranger on-campus, they were shocked by the University’s lack of communication with the student body.
Early in the morning on Saturday, Oct. 12, two suspects were arrested and charged with robbery with a deadly weapon on UT’s campus. Both victims were UT students.
“The incident occurred sometime between 1:49 a.m. and 2 a.m.,” said Stephen Hegarty, public information officer for Tampa Police Department (TPD). “We received the call at 2:14 a.m. It came in as a 911 call.”
The official report by TPD states that 23-year-old Chris Flores and 20-year-old David Johnson were the two suspects behind the incident. Flores and Johnson were both arrested. Both suspects are currently facing charges of robbery with a deadly weapon.
Joe Pacifico was one of the victims. Pacifico, a sophomore entrepreneurship major at UT, was walking back to his dorm from Straz Hall, which is located off N. Blvd, around 1:49 a.m.
“I was walking by the graduate building in the grass field,” said Pacifico. “[The suspect] ran up to me and tried to grab me. He swung his arm around my neck and pulled out a knife.”
Pacifio was able to pull away from the suspect and run back to Straz Hall. When Pacifico arrived in the building, he called UT Campus Safety. While Pacifico waited for Campus Safety to arrive, the suspects approached the second victim right outside of Straz Hall.
“The other victim was attacked right after me,” said Pacifico. “He was threatening him, so the victim gave him his wallet.”
According to the official report from TPD, the suspect showed Pacifico the 6-inch knife and threatened to kill him. However, Pacifico claims he was not threatened but was able to run away almost immediately.
“He didn’t threaten to kill me,” said Pacifico. “The incident happened so quickly.”
The second victim reported to TPD that both suspects threatened to kill him. The student then proceeded to give them his wallet and the suspects ran off-campus towards Cass Street.
After the suspects had begun to run away, Campus Safety arrived and chased them across the bridge toward Downtown Tampa, where Tampa Police were able to arrest them. Tampa Police had been informed of the incident by Campus Safety via a 911 call minutes before.
Both victims then reported the incident to TPD and UT Campus Safety. They identified both Flores and Johnson as well.
When Pacifico ran back to Straz Hall, other students had to let him into the building. UT’s residence halls have locked doors that can only be opened when an ID of a resident is scanned.
“I’m lucky that other students who lived in Straz were there to let me in, or else [the suspects] would have caught up with me,” said Pacifico.
Kimberly Giangrasso, a sophomore political science major, lives in Straz Hall. She heard about the incident soon after it happened, when students saw Pacifico run into Straz Hall and heard him call Campus Safety.
“It’s crazy that Straz is located basically off-campus and there was no Campus Safety officer in our lobby,” said Giangrasso.“Anyone could easily get into the building if they really wanted to. And on top of it, there was no public safety alert sent out to students at all. I only knew about it because we heard it.”
Often, Campus Safety Officers sit in the lobby of residence halls overnight, but both Pacifico and Giangrasso claim that there was no Campus Safety officer in the lobby of Straz on the night of Friday, Oct. 11. Many concerned students believe that the attack on the second victim could have been avoided if Campus Safety was already present in Straz Hall.
Despite being shaken up by the incident, Pacifico believes that it is just a part of being on an urban campus.
“It’s just how it is,” said Pacifico. “I hope it doesn’t happen again any time soon, but Campus Safety did arrive in almost two minutes after I made the call.”
Monnie Wertz, assistant vice president of Operations and Planning at UT, works to help send out Spartan Mobile Alerts (SMART) about campus emergencies.
“Alerts are traditionally sent out when there is an existing threat to the campus community,” said Wertz. “In this case, there was no on-going threat as the perpetrators had been apprehended by Tampa Police.”
The University’s Campus Safety did not reply when reached out to for an interview.
The TPD report stated no one was injured and both defendants denied involvement, but Flores and Johnson are both being held for attempted robbery with a deadly weapon.
Juliana Walter can be reached at email@example.com