Armed robbery on Virginia Avenue leaves students shaken


The four students robbed on Virginia Ave. are 6th graders at Inman Middle School.

Ava Smith

A group of four Inman Middle School students were walking along Virginia Ave. after school when a man stopped them, showed them a gun and told them to put their phones on the ground and run. 

The armed robbery, which happened  Friday, Jan. 24 around 4:45 p.m. was an isolated incident and unusual for the Virginia-Highland area,  especially during daylight hours. The students were walking back to Inman from the Monroe Dr. Starbucks when robbed. 

Chris Witmer, whose 6th grade daughter was robbed, was shocked when his daughter called him immediately after the incident. 

“You don’t expect them to have a problem so close to where you go to school,” Witmer said. 

Witmer said he thinks the students who were robbed are handling it better than the parents. He explained that the parents worry the culprit is intentionally targeting kids and getting away with it. Thus far, the culprit has not been identified. 

“Is that person looking by the school because he knows that there are kids that are there, that have phones, that don’t have parents, that they are unarmed?” said Witmore. “He could do this at any school … Kids walk out, and they are easy targets.” 

Witmore said that for his daughter, it “ruined the bubble of safety.” He said she told him she didn’t want to go back to school. 

“Criminals are criminals,” Witmer said. “They are going to do bad things, but you would hope that they wouldn’t threaten violence to children like that.”

Witmer said he doesn’t know what more could have been done to prevent the incident.

“We use the buddy system [and say] ‘make sure you are with a friend,’” said Witmer.  “But you’re not like, ‘make sure you’re with four friends, [or] make sure you stay really close together in a group of 10 when you walk down the street.’” 

Witmer said it was a “catch twenty-two” situation. 

“I gave my daughter a phone so I could know where she was and so she can get a hold of me,” Witmer said. When someone steals her phone, that negates both those things.”  

The incident prompted changes in the students’ after school routines. Last Friday, some parents took the same group of kids to a park instead of letting them walk down to Starbucks. 

Chloe Harlicka, a seventh-grader at Inman Middle School, was not involved in the incident, but she frequently walks down to Starbucks with friends on Fridays. She said the robbery made her rethink her safety in the area. 

“It’s kinda scary,” Harlicka said. “I may not walk as much because of it and just go home.” 

Witmer expressed gratitude to the responding police officers, those who continue to work on the case and Officer Littles, Inman’s School Resource Officer, who called the Witmer home the night of the robbery to make sure their daughter was okay. 

However, Witmer said he has not seen an official response from Inman Middle School and that although he understands that it happened off of school grounds and outside of school hours, he is interested to see if and how the school responds. 

“I would hope they would be providing whatever they feel is the best guidance for their kids, for our kids,” Witmer said. 

Inman principal Dr. Maxwell sent an email to parents detailing the incident. However, according to Harlicka, the administration didn’t talk to students about the incident. 

“I heard about what happened from my mom,” Harlicka said. “They didn’t even tell us it happened.” 

Harlicka said she thinks it would have been helpful if the school had held an assembly of some kind to educate students about what to do if they ever found themselves in a similar situation. 

Since the incident, the police have been able to recover one of the phones and are working on tracking the rest. Witmer’s daughter’s phone was sold a few hours after the robbery. An investigating officer checked in with the Witmer family on Sunday, Feb. 2 to go over the details once more. The investigating officer told Witmer that the police had hours of video footage to go through.