It’s a crime three Palm Beach Atlantic University students will never forget.
An 18-year-old woman walked from the Greene Complex for Sports and Recreation to Baxter Hall around sundown Tuesday evening (March 13) when someone carrying a gun demanded her purse. Almost simultaneously and less than a mile away, another juvenile suspect holding a gun confronted two other PBA female students and demanded one hand over her vape pen.
According to a West Palm Beach police report obtained by The Beacon, the two crimes were allegedly committed by the same group of teenage suspects.
“We went on a little walk around the block, off campus next to the DeSantis Chapel,” one victim told The Beacon reporter in an interview a few days after the crime. “We were right next to campus… the Okeechobee parking lot behind the billboard, we were at BB&T bank.”
Although court documents list the names of all three victims, The Beacon will not disclose such detail out of respect for their personal safety. West Palm Beach police considers this an active investigation.
According to the officer assigned to the case, a 19-year-old student and a 20-year-old student were walking south on Dixie Highway when the girls noticed three individuals on bikes.
Out of caution, the two began to walk away in another direction along Okeechobee Blvd., when one of the boys passed them, jumped off the bike and blocked their path.
“I’m going to level with you,” the 13-year-old suspect told the two women, according to the police report. “I want your vape pen now!”
“We just kind of looked at him and we were like, what, what are you talking about, no,” the PBA sophomore student recalled to The Beacon. “No, you’re a kid. Absolutely not!”
The other female standing next to her friend noticed the young man had his hand in his pocket. She asked the boy if he had a gun. The suspect said yes, pulled the gun out and showed them the weapon.
“His hand was never on the trigger, it was on the guard. But if he needed to, he could’ve moved his finger like that and shot,” the victim said.
After an immediate sense of panic, the girls handed the personal item over to the armed suspect. The girls reasoned that stuff can be replaced, but someone’s life is more important.
“Please don’t shoot us,” the two young women told the teenager, according to the police report. As he left the crime scene, the suspect told them not to call police, but the girls did anyway.
“I started freaking out, like that whole time I was trying to stay as calm as possible,” the sophomore student told The Beacon. “But as soon as he was gone, it hit me like a truck. I started bawling, I was like weeping.”
After arriving to the crime scene to also investigate, PBA campus security informed the two female students they weren’t the only ones threatened with a gun that night.
“What do you mean there were more?” the PBA sophomore recalled thinking that night with exasperation.
A second teenage suspect identified by police wearing a different set of clothes approached a third PBA student walking to her dorm. This time, the girl was alone and on campus.
As the suspect demanded her purse and revealed a gun in his waistband, the young woman started to cry and then asked, “why are you doing this, I don’t have any money,” the police officer wrote in his report.
According to the police report, the unidentified armed suspect told the PBA student, “Don’t tell anybody, okay?” He then left the area and walked north toward Okeechobee Blvd.
One of the victims described having to wait several hours at the campus safety office while police investigated both crimes.
“Campus security and police were butting heads quite a bit because campus safety wanted us to fill out the affidavits… for the school so they knew what was going on,” the PBA sophomore student recalled, adding one of the officers kept “yelling at campus safety” to stop filling out any school forms until the police investigation was complete.
Late in the evening, West Palm Beach police officers located three individuals on bikes matching the description given by the victims. A 13-year-old and a 14-year-old were stopped by police, but a third suspect got away.
All three PBA students were asked to try and identify their respective attackers, but all three were unable to make a positive identification. All three were also informed this is not the first time a group of three individuals are accused of committing armed robbery.
The juvenile who had the vape pen in his possession at the time of the questioning was taken by police to the West Palm Beach Police Department offices where he was questioned by detectives. Based on the evidence gathered, police arrested the 13-year-old and charged him with armed robbery.
Back at the location of the crime scene a few days after it happened, the 19-year-old PBA sophomore reflects further on what might have saved her life from a more gruesome crime; she believes it was her friend walking with her.
“If she hadn’t been there, honestly, I don’t know what would’ve happened. I probably would not be alive. Either that, or I would have been injured… It would not have gone well to say the least.”