Quinnipiac University student held at gunpoint


Olivia Schueller

Jack Onofrio, senior political science major, was held at gunpoint in the 1000 block of Third Street Northeast on Friday in Washington, D.C. around 9 p.m.

“One guy pulled out a small revolver and he stuck the gun right into my face…another guy pulled out a knife and started threatening me with the knife,” Onofrio said.

Onofrio is one of the many Quinnipiac students participating in a two-week seminar with The Washington Center. Quinnipiac students participate in the QU in D.C. program for a semester either at the Washington Center or the Washington Media Institute each year.

In his first week of the seminar, Onofrio and his friend, Amanda Shoopman, were walking from the NoMa Metro Station to Third Street Northeast where The Washington Center’s Residential and Academic Facility, RAF, is located. On their route, three men wearing ski masks approached the two students.

The route that Onofrio and Shoopman took from the NoMA-Gallaudet metro stop to The RAF. 

Shoopman, a sophomore at Miami Dade College, said, “Jack really stepped into action, he did all the talking and put himself between the gunman and me. I was in shock.”

Onofrio noticed shortly after getting off the metro that three men were following him and Shoopman. The men came up to them and began making threats.

“They asked for my phone and I kept telling them, I’m not going to give you my phone… I kind of backed into the street and they followed me across the street…they seemed nervous,” Onofrio said.

Onofrio threw his wallet into the street for the men, but they continued to ask him for his cellphone so that he couldn’t contact the police. But he refused to give it to them.

The police report notes that a handgun, knife and cutting instrument were the weapons used against Onofrio.

The man with the knife then faced the man with the gun and said, “Give me the gun. I want to shoot this motherf*cker.”

Onofrio said that’s when he turned around and ran to the apartment with Shoopman. The two then dialed 9-1-1.

Following the 9-1-1 call, police arrived at the RAF.

“They had me get in the passenger seat of the police car…. They drove me around the general neighborhood and had me look out the window for the guy,” Onofrio said.

Above is a video of Onofrio searching for the men with the D.C. Police after the armed robbery.

Onofrio and police were unable to find the three young men around the Third Street Northeast area. As of today, the three men have not been found or identified by police.

Third Street Northeast was a prominent area for crime Friday night.

“When I was in the cop car I actually heard them saying over the radio there was another attempted robbery in the same area, probably the same group of guys,” Onofrio said.

Above is a video of he D.C. Police inside of The RAF after the incident. 

Police are now looking through security camera footage by Third Street Northeast to try and identify the three men.

Hugh Sokoloski is a sophomore, political science major participating in the seminar with Onofrio.

“The Washington Center ensures the safety of its students, where you have to tap to enter the building and then must show your badge to the security at the desk,” he said. “However, once you leave those doors, you are on your own.”

Sokoloski and Onofrio both said despite the forced robbery they will both continue to use the metro in their time in D.C.

“I’m not going to stop walking to the metro, it’s obviously kind of unsettling,” Onofrio said. “It would be crazy if it wasn’t unsettling to have a gun pointed at you, but it’s always kind of a risk in the back of your mind when you’re in a city in a rougher neighborhood.”

Quinnipiac students understand that D.C. is a populated city with crime.

Mariam Shawish, freshman, political science major, who is also attending the seminar said, “To an extent I don’t think it could’ve been avoided, just because we are in a city and every city has its own dangers. I feel as safe in D.C. as I would an in city in general.”

Q30 News reached out to Professor of Political Science and Chair of Philosophy, Scott McLean, who facilitates The Washington Center program for Quinnipiac students and is an advisor. McLean gave the following statement:

“Nothing like this has ever happened in the 17 years we have brought QU students to D.C. Our student used good urban common sense, but we are in a city, and sometimes even careful street smart people can be targets of criminals. It is sad that this incident occurred but I am thankful nobody was injured.  

There is no reason to be concerned about security in the program. The students and I are housed here in a residence hall with 24-hour security, in a safe middle-class urban neighborhood. Students receive a detailed orientation on using urban common sense to avoid them being a victim of crime.”

Q30 News obtained the following police report retailing the robbery from the D.C. police on January 12, 2019.