University students robbed at gunpoint

Three University students were held up early Friday morning in a pair of armed robberies that occurred within minutes of each other on the train tracks near Rugby Road.

Charlottesville Police currently are investigating the incidents and have yet to arrest any suspects.

In both robberies, suspects produced silver handguns before demanding money.

City Police Chief Tim Longo said, that based on physical descriptions of the suspects and weapons, the location of the incidents and the time they occurred, the incidents appear related but are being investigated separately.

In the first incident, a group of three black males and one white male approached two University students -- one male and one female -- as they walked along the railroad tracks toward Lambeth Residence Halls, according to the police report.

The white male, who was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 130 to 140 pounds, with short-cropped black hair and a black T-shirt, threatened the students with a gun and stole a small amount of money.

Longo said one of the students, the 20-year-old male, told police that the suspect holding the gun cocked it and pointed it at him.

In the second incident, a 21-year-old male student was walking on the train tracks in the same area when two men stopped him, produced a gun and tried to rob him. The first suspect was described in the police report as a white male of thin build and his lone companion was described as a black male in a black hooded sweatshirt.

According to Longo, a pack of cigarettes, but no money, was taken in the second altercation.

No injuries were reported in either incident and police have not released the victims' identities.

Noting the high amount of foot traffic on the railroad tracks, Longo said he was concerned by the fact that neither robbery was immediately reported.

Victims in both incidents waited until Friday afternoon to alert the police.

"We had an armed [officer] on those tracks," Longo said. "We'd like to have gotten the information a lot sooner than we did, so we would have been in a position to locate the suspects, provide extra patrol [and] provide a greater sense of security for students moving around."

Angela Davis, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life, called the railroad tracks "just a bad scene" and urged students to be more cautious.

"We are sensitive to areas such as Lambeth that buttress up against the tracks," Davis said. "We tell people to use lighted pathways [and] the blue phones, and we tell people if they see someone who looks suspicious to contact the University Police."

Longo also encouraged students and Charlottesville residents to stay off the tracks, not only because they are more vulnerable there, but also because it is against the law because the tracks are private property.

"People use it as a thoroughfare on a daily basis and obviously this is as good an example as any why you shouldn't," he said.

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