Jeff Pels, a senior accounting major, walks down Devitt Avenue to a friend’s house almost every weekend. On Friday night, the 30-second walk down the street took a bad turn when he and two friends were robbed at gunpoint.
Pels said he believed there was little he and the two other victims could have done differently. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
About midnight Friday night, Pels, Charli Henderson and one of Pels’ roommates who requested to remain anonymous were approached by two men while walking from Cockrell to Green Avenue on Devitt Avenue. According to the report filed by Fort Worth Police, Pels and Henderson were approached by the two men and robbed at gunpoint. Pels’ roommate fled the scene and called 911.
Pels said Fort Worth Police officers thought the crime was a little peculiar because the students, who were walking in a group, were not the easy target criminals typically pursue.
Pels said he didn’t really see how he could have done anything different to avoid the attack.
“Once they have guns, there is not much you can do, you know,” Pels said.
He was so shocked by what was happening he said he thought it was a joke at first.
“I kind of just stood there and didn’t say anything, and then he punched me, and I fell down and thought, “This is serious,'” he said.
The police report said the assailants struck Pels in the face with a pistol and kicked him twice while he was on the ground.
Pels said the suspects asked him where his wallet was and demanded to know the amount of cash inside. He said one of the men then took Pels’ phone and his wallet, which had no cash, from his back pocket.
Pels said that Henderson, a senior strategic communication major, handed the suspect her wristlet, which contained four dollars in cash. The suspect then threatened her, but did not take anything more than her wallet.
“He pointed the gun closer to her and said, “You better not be lying to me,'” Pels said.
The police report stated the suspects fled in a purple van.
Fort Worth Police came immediately to look for the van and question the three witnesses. Pels said they told the police everything they knew, but because of the darkness they didn’t get a good look at the suspects.
Pels used Henderson’s phone to call TCU Police, who came over to the house and informed Dean of Campus Life Susan Adams of the robbery. Adams also came to the house to check on the students.
TCU Police Sgt. Kelly Ham said that if students are attacked off campus, he advises them to call the Fort Worth Police first and then contact TCU Police because Fort Worth Police might be able to get to the scene faster.
Pels advised students to be aware of their surroundings, walk in large groups, stay in lighted areas and pay attention to Crime Alerts.
Pels said he used to disregard the alerts because he thought it could never happen to him.
“Don’t take anything for granted. You can never be too careful,” Pels said.
No one was taken to the hospital, and Pels said that although no charges were made to his debit card, there were a few fraudulent charges on Henderson’s credit card in Dallas and Oklahoma before she could get it cancelled.
Sgt. Chad Mahaffey, public information officer for the Fort Worth Police Department, said the case is still under investigation by the Fort Worth Robbery Unit.
“No arrests have been made, however the investigation is still active and open,” Mahaffey said.
The crime is reported as Robbery-Individual on the police report, which Mahaffey said is a robbery of a person and a first-degree felony.
According to the Texas Penal Code section 12.32, a person convicted of a first-degree felony can receive a sentence of 5 to 99 years or life in prison. In addition to the jail time, a person convicted may also have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
Texas Penal Code section 29.03 defines Aggravated Robbery as committing theft with intent to obtain or maintain control of the property by intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another and uses or exhibits a deadly weapon.