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Armed robbery continues uptick in campus violence

The suspects, charged with first-degree robbery, could face maximum sentences of life in prison

Two masked men robbed four students early Saturday morning near the intersection of Cooke and Benevolent streets, the Department of Public Safety announced in a community-wide email Saturday. Earlier the same night, the suspects allegedly stole a laptop from a student’s house.

The crimes mark the first robberies of the semester and the fifth since the beginning of the summer.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the two suspects left a green Honda Element­ — in which two accomplices were waiting — and approached the walking students, said Paul Shanley, deputy chief of police for DPS. One of the suspects allegedly threatened the students with what appeared to be a handgun and demanded their cellphones and money, Shanley said. After the students complied with their requests, the suspects fled the scene in the waiting vehicle. The four students called DPS immediately after the crime, Shanley added.

“The students were practicing good awareness that they walked in a group,” Shanley said. “So I commend them for that and the fact that they did the right thing, contacting the police.”

Around 3 a.m., a University-contracted security officer, who was off-duty at the time but had just been informed of the crime, saw a vehicle matching the Honda’s description in the Douglas Avenue area of Providence, Shanley said. The officer alerted the Providence Police Department, which was able to follow and arrest the suspects.

Kaelon Pittman, 18, and three other suspects were arrested in connection with the crime and have been charged with first-degree robbery, which is a felony and in Rhode Island carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Pittman will be tried in the Sixth Division District Court in Providence but will most likely be moved to Superior Court, Shanley said. The three other suspects — who are minors and whose names are not being released — will be tried in the family court system, he added.

A laptop belonging to Becca Wolinsky ’14 was found in the suspects’ vehicle. Wolinsky said she had “some friends over” Friday night at her house on Ives Street, where the suspects allegedly took her laptop before robbing the other students later that night. Providence police officers recovered the laptop after the suspects’ arrest.

Because of the “level of violence” that has occurred on campus in recent months, DPS has increased patrol units and manpower, The Herald reported last week. Despite the increased security, Shanley said this particular incident was difficult to prevent because it was “on the fringe of our campus.”

“We’re still right now going to continue our additional resources out on the street in an effort to deter this from happening again,” he said.


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