Howard University students respond to public safety threats in the Northwest quadrant of the District. (Photo courtesy of Howard University)

By DaQuan Lawrence,
AFRO International Writer,

(Updated 8/19/2023) – Howard University is investigating and responding to the attack of a male student by an off-campus assailant.

On the morning of Aug. 14, the victim was stabbed and robbed in close proximity to Howard Plaza Towers. The victim was hospitalized following the attack, according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

The incident occurred between 1-3 a.m., when two unidentified suspects assaulted the victim on the 2200 block of Sherman Ave. The crime occurred at the conclusion of Howard’s annual move-in weekend for incoming freshman students.

While the incident remains under investigation, Howard officials believe a group of adolescents are the culprits who attacked and robbed the victim of items, including his mobile phone.

“Since I’m from the area, I don’t feel threatened. But if I wasn’t from here, I would feel some type of way because I wouldn’t be familiar,” Skyler Wills, an incoming freshman and business management major from Prince George’s County, Md., told The AFRO.

“I think [sometimes] people near campus do dumb stuff. But, honestly, I feel safe at nighttime and it’s a lot of security,” Wills added.

According to MPD, the victim said he was “assaulted, stabbed and robbed” by his assailants at approximately 2:30 a.m., however, officers weren’t dispatched until two hours later, at 4:43 a.m.

The exact timing of the incident remains uncertain. In an email sent to the Howard community at 5:01 a.m., the Howard University Department of Public Safety (HUDPS) mentioned the crime was reported at approximately 1:50 a.m.

Richard Jones, who hails from Charlotte, N.C., and is a freshman at Howard, shared his thoughts about the ongoing situation with The AFRO. “I think some of the locals have it out for some of the Howard students [that are not from this area],” he said.

“I feel the university is acknowledging that there’s an issue and trying to solve the problem,” he added.

In an email to the Howard community, exiting president Wayne A.I. Frederick mentioned the “university’s safety plan will involve deeper partnership and coordination with the MPD.”

Howard hosted an online town hall meeting on Aug. 15 to discuss the incident and to remind students, parents and the Howard community of public safety measures. During the meeting, attendees were informed on what Howard can do as a university community to be vigilant against criminal activity.

During the town hall, executive director and chief of the university’s Department of Public Safety, Marcus Lyles said he suspended a campus police lieutenant and dismissed a security contractor over issues with their response.

In response to the attack, Howard student leaders are calling attention to public safety measures for the student body.

In a statement released by the Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the brothers called for “increased safety measures for students.”

The Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity also issued a statement in support of campus safety and said the brothers are “deeply disturbed by the recent uptick in violent acts across Howard’s campus” over the past month.

The university held its annual Safety Fair on Aug. 17, which was hosted by the school’s police and featured representatives of the MPD, as well as the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other university divisions.

During the fair, the university mentioned various precautions all students should follow and provided an abundance of resources such as fire safety, sexual violence prevention information and safety training.

“We want every Bison to know that they are not alone. We are pulling together to make sure that all Bison are safe and handling this incident in a healthy way,” Dr. Marcus Hummings, the interim executive director at the Howard University Counseling Service, told The AFRO.

“When it comes to Howard as an open campus, there is ongoing work that always needs to be managed,” said Shakira Jarvis, director of the Office of Interpersonal Violence Prevention at Howard.

The Office of Interpersonal Violence Prevention serves the Howard community by providing advocacy and education in the areas of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking and harassment, and preventative measures against interpersonal violence.

“Interpersonal violence just means the violence that occurs between people,” Jarvis told The AFRO. Jarvis also highlighted the importance of Howard’s relationship with the D.C. community.

“Howard is in a community that’s existed before us, and we must recognize the transient parts of our population. Every year about a quarter of our community is different,” she said.

Classes are set to resume during the school’s fall semester at the end of August.