Students embattled by barrage of local crime

Written By Amanda Andrews, Co-News Editor

Photo by Amanda Andrews
Pittsburgh police took the assaulter to the squad car at 3:22 p.m.

Around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, three women were physically assaulted by a 34 year-old man at Market St. and Third Ave. according to Pittsburgh Police. One woman was taken to the hospital for reportedly minor injuries. Two of the women are Point Park students.

Seniors Patience Karan and Hannah Stawski were walking through PPG Plaza when they were unexpectedly approached and touched by the man for a solid minute from behind. 

“We were walking through PPG when all of the sudden, we see him running up, jumping over the bench and then kind of jumped on us and grabbed our hair and was just trying to pull us to the ground,” Karan said. “And then we fought him off and pushed him away.” 

Karan also said that it was as though he was trying to “get us to fight him back.” 

Karan and Stawski did not know the man, despite onlookers initially thinking that this was a friendly interaction. The students then said that the unknown man proceeded to make intense eye contact with them. 

“It was weird though because he was just standing there making so much eye contact with us. Like he was dumbfounded that we even got him, like really pushed him off,” Karan said. “Because after he was there, he was just staring at us for the longest [time]—he was like debating ‘should I try again, or should I go away’.”

Stawski then began to use expletives against the man, and he darted across the plaza to the intersection of Third Ave. and Market St. and subsequently tackled the third woman.

“He literally tried to get us, couldn’t get us, ran over here and got her. It was all right away,” Stawski said. “We were still processing it whenever we saw her on the ground with him, so we ran over.” 

The students rushed over along with other bystanders to come to the woman’s aide. One of those bystanders played an instrumental role in restraining the man but requested not to be identified by his real name, so he is referred to by his preferred alias, Clark Kent. 

“I was walking by Five Guys, approaching Point Park, and I noticed the gentleman tackling the two, I guess, teenage-early twenties girls. I first thought they were playing around until I heard them screaming ‘who the f**k are you’, ‘get away from me’. At that point, he ran through the square. I knew something was weird so I picked my pace and followed him up,” Kent said. “Then I saw him grab the other girl. She screamed. I ran up. By the time I got there, there was probably about four or five people kicking and punching him, trying to get him off of her. I dove in, pulled my knee over his throat and pushed on his temples until he let go. I restrained him until the security people came over and I walked away.” 

“We were all hitting him. I was literally—I had my heel on him and I kicked him in the face, and he didn’t even budge,” Karan said. 

One of the security guards on the scene was Todd Finch. While he did not personally restrain the man, he helped to create a perimeter around the assaulter. Finch commended the actions of the two students, Karan and Stawski. 

“The girls did what they had to do,” Finch said. “I don’t blame them, especially because I feel like women need to protect themselves more because there are men out there that are like that. They’re just really disgusting men.” 

Police officers from Zone 2 arrived at the scene just after 3 p.m. according to Assistant Public Information Officer Cara Cruz. 

In an email statement, Cruz gave the details of the incident that could be released to the public as of a little under two hours following the incident. 

“When they arrived on scene, they found a male on the ground who was being held there by two private security guards assigned to PPG Plaza,” the email stated. “Pittsburgh Police say the male became physically combative with them when they tried to talk to him.”

The third woman who was attacked also said that she did not know the man. The man threw her to the ground, and she hit her head upon impact. She “was conscious and talking” when she gave her statement and loaded into an ambulance to the police according to the email. 

Finch said that violent incidents like this typically do not occur at PPG Plaza in his experience.

“That’s like the first incident that was major that I’ve seen here. You get your homeless that come through here, you might get your strays that maybe talk to themselves, but it’s never too hectic,” Finch said. “It’s not a bad place. Kids come down and run through the water. It’s a great place. I love my job. And that’s why I come here every day because I love my job. But when I see stuff like that, that makes me just want to be more on point with my job. Make sure I pay attention to people because, say, he could have really harmed that girl.” 

The assaulter was a white man in a black t-shirt with print on it and pants that were riding down, exposing his underwear. Kent was able to give a description of the man as Kent saw him when he intervened. 

“The gentleman was not in his right mind, definitely on drugs,” Kent said. “He was laughing, foaming at the mouth, spitting. He was definitely enjoying himself.” 

Kent is a native Pittsburgher and has moved back and forth between cities in his lifetime. He reflected that this incident is an indication of the deteriorating state of Pittsburgh. 

“What’s happening with our city right now is just disgusting,” Kent said. “I commute Downtown every day for work. I work in the city usually every day, and I am harassed for money, I’m called a cracker, I’m chased down the street almost at least once a week. Maybe sometimes twice a week …Just drug use and people just doped out of their mind, passing out in the street, it’s just sickening. …I’ve worked in major metropolitan cities throughout the east coast, [in the] Northeast as well, and our city is quickly becoming the armpit of America right now.”

While Kent’s sentiment is that Pittsburgh is in decline, Assistant Vice President and Chief of Police Jeffrey Besong said that Point Park was experiencing less crime than a year prior. 

“Actually, our incidents are slightly lowered from this time last year. However, this summer has been busy for both PPU & Pittsburgh Police,” Besong said. 

While Karan and Stawski intervened in the third assault, they said that they wished someone would have tried to stop what happened to the two of them before it escalated. 

“I feel like he shouldn’t have been able to make it over here,” Karan said. “Like he attacked us over there, multiple people saw it, [and] nobody did anything until he took the girl to the ground over here.”

Police arrested the man and took him to Allegheny County Jail. 

Karan and Stawski were not the only Point Park victims of physical assault. Three weeks ago, freshman undecided major Gina Schlimm was walking onto Wood Street at night with her friend when an unknown man repeatedly groped at Schlimm. 

“This guy comes up to me, and he like puts his arm on me and I just hit it away. And then he puts his arms around me and he goes, ‘Hey baby girl, do you want to go across the street?’ And I just pulled my shoulders back and kind of knock[ed] him off and ran away,” Schlimm said.  

Schlimm and her friend found Pittsburgh Police and reported the incident and were able to corroborate that report with a local storeworker who had witnessed the event. Schlimm’s friend gave Pittsburgh Police the description of the man: in his 40s-50s wearing a red shirt and a bandana. Schlimm herself could not recall the details, stating that she was in shock about what had happened to her.  

“I was just scared because I didn’t know if he was like grabbing for my wallet or for my phone or like if he was going to try to pick me up and take me away. I didn’t know what he was doing because just his arms were around me,” Schlimm said. “I didn’t know if he was going to try to like touch me. It was just really scary. I’ve never had somebody that I didn’t know come up and put their arms around me.” 

Initially, Schlimm said she internally blamed herself when trying to rationalize the incident before realizing that what had occurred what not her fault. She wanted everyone in any similar kind of situation to come to that same conclusion. 

According to Schlimm, Pittsburgh Police later told her that the man who had assaulted her “was on something. Don’t worry about it.” They also said that the man had claimed Schlimm was the initial aggravator in the situation, but they did not believe his story. 

As someone from a small town in Pennsylvania, Schlimm did not feel she had to take measures to protect herself in daily situations. Since her experience, she now carries pepper spray and said she has learned that “you can’t always give people the benefit of the doubt.” 

“I just think it’s really sad. I think it’s a shame that people go through this stuff,” Schlimm said. “I mean we come here to go to school, and we get an education, but not every campus has to deal with problems like this.”

None of these incidents described above were sent out via the PointAlert system. An attempted robbery of two Point Park students near the Mon Wharf was reported via PointAlert on Oct. 1. Besong said that an incident must fall in line with a strict definition of what could be potentially dangerous to campus. 

“In the event that there is a confirmed significant emergency or dangerous situation constituting an immediate threat to the campus community…[Point Park Police Department] will, without undue delay, and taking into account [the] safety of the community, determine the content of the notification and initiate the immediate notification system,” Besong said. “Incidents must be on campus or pose an immediate threat to the campus, and we must be aware of the incidents.” 

In the event of a potentially dangerous situation, students can call dispatch at 412-392-3960, request an escort or contact Pittsburgh Police by calling 911.