CLEVELAND-- Cleveland police are searching for a suspect in the armed robbery of two John Carroll University students delivering meals to the homeless in Ohio City Friday.
The women, ages 21 and 20, were handing out food from a university van parked on Bridge Avenue near West 25th Street around 9:30 p.m., according to the police report.
A man walked up, pointed a gun at them and demanded money, then stole an iPhone, the report said. The victims told investigators the man then got into a car with two other people that had parked alongside the van, and they drove away.
According to police, the victims said they were almost done delivering meals, but were waiting for one last regular. When she arrived, they went to the back of the van and were robbed.
It happened in a popular neighborhood, near restaurants and bars that are typically crowded with people on a weekend evening. The armed robbery was a surprise to some people visiting the area Tuesday.
“It's absolutely horrifying,” Jen Wilson said. “This is such a popular area. We go to Mitchell's as a family for ice cream. This is such a great area for people to come out, grab dinner, be with friends, and it’s terrifying.”
A John Carroll University spokesperson said the students who were robbed were participating in the Labre Project, a student-led organization that provides food and friendship to up to 80 homeless individuals in Cleveland every Friday night.
“The incident on Friday was the first time that students have encountered violence in more than 750 nights of the Labre Project since 2004,” university spokesperson Mike Scanlan said.
Scanlan said students typically go out in groups of two or four, but the university will now mandate at least four students per trip.
He said university police will continue to keep a log of students who are taking part in the program and will now document their planned routes.
The university also planned to add signs to vans used in the Labre Project stating “occupants do not carry cash.”
“At John Carroll University, we are committed to the safety of our students. We are aware of this situation and we are providing full support to the individuals who were involved,” Scanlan said.
A Cleveland police spokesperson said no one has been arrested, and a suspect has not been identified.