Kristen Mitchell / Senior Lantern reporter
“You better start running if you don’t want to be killed.”
That’s what an unidentified man with a handgun told Kim Klumb, a fifth-year in nursing, after he took her cellphone and cash last week on Chittenden Avenue.
Klumb and her roommate were walking home from Kildare’s Irish Pub in the South Campus Gateway at about 2 a.m. Thursday with a group of friends before turning on Chittenden Avenue to visit a friend who lives on Indianola Avenue before turning in for the night.
Arriving at their friend’s apartment, they found he was not home and turned to leave when a man passed them on the stairs outside the building. As they passed him, he turned around and began following them down the stairs.
Klumb said he followed them, and cornered them against a wall of 100 Chittenden Ave. as he pulled out a handgun and aimed it at Leslie Ferch, a fourth-year in nursing. He took both of their cellphones.
After threatening to rape and kill them, he sent them walking down the street. Ferch first, then Klumb.
The man was later described in a public safety notice emailed from the university as “a black male, 19 to 20 years of age, with a baby face, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 6 inches, 140 pounds, wearing black pants, blue and white plaid shirt underneath a gray hoodie, a black baseball cap (turned around backwards). The suspect hair style was in dreadlocks/dreads.”
Once the man was out of sight, the girls ran to the Moody-Hall Neighborhood Policing Center at 248 E. 11th Ave., and were banging on the doors, asking for help.
There was no one inside.
Klumb used the call box on the outside of the building to call 911, while Ferch flagged down a car and did the same. The police arrived within minutes.
Officers from the Columbus Division of Police told the girls that they weren’t the usual targets. They had been sober, alert and walking together. Klumb said she had been carrying pepper spray at the time of the incident.
“When somebody puts a gun to you, you aren’t going to Mace them. … People tell you that’s what you’re supposed to do, but I think it’s more for your comfort,” she said.
Ferch said they never thought of using it to combat their attacker.
“Everything changes when a gun is involved … He has the power. You can’t fight a bullet,” Ferch said.
Klumb said they had been trying to be careful when they were attacked.
“My friend lives on 12th, and we could have gone up 12th and through the alley to our apartment, but we said no. Let’s walk up Chittenden, it’s better lit, it’s safer then walking down an alley,” she said.
Klumb and Ferch agreed that they no longer felt comfortable leaving their apartment at night, and would like to see Ohio State Police and Columbus Police take steps to improve off-campus safety.
“You don’t really see the police officers, they’re on High … they aren’t out where it’s calm and people are just going home and walking,” Klumb said.
The girls said they want to see more police presence when students are walking after they leave High Street.
“We know they can’t be everywhere, but what if, say, they were out at the times the bars let out, or the busier nights of the week. Even just two guys on bikes (on residential streets),” Ferch said.
Ferch also mentioned that she would like to see the blue light emergency poles that are on university property extended to the larger off-campus area.
Taylor Stepp, Undergraduate Student Government president, said off-campus safety is his first priority, and that he has been working toward improving the joint-jurisdiction agreement between University Police and Columbus Police.
“No student should be unsafe in the campus area,” he said.
Despite plans to increase funding for Student Safety Services, Stepp said that he “would not consider blue lights on the top of our priority list,” citing that they can be easily abused by passers-by, and that most students have accessible cellphones in times of need.
When Klumb and Ferch had their phones taken, they thought to run to the Moody-Hall Neighborhood Policing Center a few blocks away, only to find that no one was inside.
“We didn’t have our phones and we couldn’t get to the police. When they got there, they got there quickly, but it was a challenge getting to them,” Klumb said.
The policing center, jointly funded by Columbus Police and OSU, is not open to the public, and is not staffed overnight. According to a 2008 university press release, the building, which cost the university about $2.2 million and the city of Columbus about $2.4 million when it opened in 2008, is used primarily for meetings.
Columbus Police and University Police are constantly working on improving off-campus safety, and Commander Terry Moore with Columbus Police said they are taking steps to ensure that campus is as safe as possible.
“We are stepping up patrols and using other available resources that are appropriate,” he said in an email.
University Police emailed a public safety notice about the event on Thursday afternoon, nearly 12-hours after the incident had occurred. The notice described the incident and gave a detailed description of the suspect.
Both victims said the alert needed to come sooner, even though the crime didn’t occur directly on campus property.
“This is still campus. It’s all college students,” Ferch said.
In the past, Ferch said that when she has gotten alerts, she has contacted friends known to be in the area of the activity to make sure they know what’s going on and that they were safe.
University Police Chief Paul Denton urged students to be careful when out late at night.
“We want students to be aware of their surroundings,” he said.
One student called the public safety notice a “reality check.”
“I think it’s scary just because I am living around this area next year, and knowing that even though you’re with someone else you can sti
ll get robbed. And it’s scary that knowing walking just one block you’re in danger,” said Ann Moffett, a first-year in business.
The victims urged students to remember that this kind of crime could happen to anyone, and that they never expected it to happen to them.
“We were just there, and we were females. Would he have done it to males? I don’t know, he had a gun, it doesn’t matter if someone is big, tall, short,” Klumb said. “They have a gun and you’re going to do what they say.”
Dani Myers contributed to this article.