Families are calling for action after students were victims of a robbery outside Eliot Hine Middle School (1830 Constitution Ave. NE). Police said that shortly before 4 p.m. Friday, an SUV pulled up outside the school with multiple occupants. The suspects told a group of students from both Eliot Hine and nearby Eastern High School that they had a weapon.
Police shared additional details about the crime in an email to an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC). “The offense near the school involving the students appears to be part of a pattern involving a red Kia Sportage SUV bearing Virginia tags with a back passenger window covered by duct tape,” police said in an email to Commissioner Amber Gove (6A04).
Suspects implied they had a gun. “The vehicle was occupied by several suspects who implied they had weapons; however, none were seen,” officers wrote. “Items of clothing, including shoes, were taken from the students and there were no reported injuries.” (MPD did not respond to additional questions in time for publication).
The vehicle used in the armed robbery outside Eliot Hine was described as a newer model Kia Sportage with Virginia tags TWM2219. It was captured by a surveillance camera and can be seen in the photo below.
That same car is also sought in a robbery that happened a few minutes before the Eliot Hine incident, near Ballou High School on the 3400 block of Fourth Street SE.
In a letter sent to parents immediately after the incident, Eliot Hine Principal Marlene Magrino said that the students were, thankfully, safe.
“The group of students were visibly upset by this incident and returned to the Eliot-Hine building and reported the crime to school staff,” Magrino wrote. She said the school contacted MPD immediately. Other students outside the school at the time of the robbery were brought indoors until their parents picked them up, the letter indicated.
Ongoing support is available to students who need to process these events, she added. “I recognize this is a distressing and frightening event,” Magrino wrote. “Coping with the effects of neighborhood violence and conflict is a challenging experience for students, and we want to support our community when such events occur,” she said in the letter.
UPDATE: DCPS sent the following statement Monday, Feb. 20: “DC Public Schools’ top priority is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Following Friday’s dismissal, several students were approached outside of Eliot-Hine Middle School, and unknown individuals used the threat of violence to take their personal belongings. We recognize the distress of this incident, and DCPS’ school-based mental health teams are prepared to support our students and families during this time.”
DCPS added that the security and operations teams of the involved schools are fully cooperating with MPD while DCPS works with agency and community partners to assess additional security measures and ensure students’ safety on school property and during their commutes.
‘Student Safety Should Be A Priority’
Families were shaken by the incident. Members of the school community called for a response from DC Council and the Mayor’s Office, with some expressing concern about the safety of the school. Others linked the incident to crime in the area and in the city overall, rather than the school.
“Obviously we were very concerned about the incident,” said Jamie Gregorian. “It was at our child’s midle school. But this could have happened anywhere else.”
The eldest of Gregorian’s two daughters attends Eliot Hine. He said that she was home at the time of the armed robbery, and the family learned about it through school messaging.
This type of crime could happen around any middle school in the city, Gregorian said, and called for student safety to be a priority for the city. “I don’t think the fact that it happened at Eliot HIne is a reflection on Eliot Hine itself,” Gregorian said.
“Frankly, as a city we really need to think long and hard if it’s going to [revise sentencing] in its re-writing of the criminal code,” Gregorian added.
“We found the school’s response appropriate,” Gregorian said. “We’re still waiting for a response from the city.”
Concern Throughout District
The incident was a flashpoint for concern about the safety of Eliot HIne students. However, parents are concerned throughout the District. Violent crimes have taken place in the vicinity of several District schools over the last six months alone.
In October 2022, a student walking home was beaten and robbed of his phone and shoes in Northwest. The incident took place a block or two from two schools, Mundo Verde Public Charter School (30 P St. NW) and Dunbar High School (101 N St. NW).
In January 2023, there was a similar incident in the area near those schools. Three suspects, one of them armed, took a student’s cell phone and jacket. A 12-year-old was arrested in the January case.
In November 2022, a 15-year old was shot as he sat on a porch across the street from Kelly Miller Middle School (301 49th St. NE). As in the above case, the suspects arrested were middle-school aged themselves. A 15-year-old later pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the Kelly Miller case; he was 14 years old at the time of the incident.
But the incident also drew attention to crime in the area. While crime overall is down in the Police Service Area where Eliot Hine is located, violent crime saw a slight increase.
The same day as the robbery outside Eliot Hine, two car jackings took place on the Hill, albeit in the area closer to Lincoln Park. At 8:30 a.m. Feb. 17, there was a carjacking on the 1200 block of East Capitol St. NE and another attempted carjacking at 4:30 p.m. on the 200 block of 12th Street NE, near Park Street. A man was beaten in the latter attempt.
Ward 6 is home to many Eliot Hine students, although the school itself is now located in Ward 7. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) said the incident at Eliot Hine was deeply disturbing (the border between wards is at 15th Street). He has spoken with several parents, he said, and with MPD with a view to helping to share what police know with the public and to support them as they work to make an arrest.
“I know for the students it’s incredibly scary for anything like that to happen –as it is for any parent as well,” Allen said. MPD is working hard to identify and catch the suspects, the Ward 6 Councilmember added, noting that information supplied by MPD indicates that the suspects could be linked and charged on several additional crimes.
Councilmember Vincent Gray (D) represents ward 7. He said the Eliot Hine armed robbery was “shocking and appalling.”
Gray said that schoolchildren must feel safe and be safe at school and when they are commuting. He said his office will ask MPD to be more visible around schools, especially during arrival and dismissal times.
“MPD is stretched thin these days,” Gray continued. “We now have fewer sworn officers than at any time in many years. We are looking into ways, including legislative remedies, to support MPD’s effort to retain and recruit high-quality police officers. Though police cannot be everywhere all the time, greater visibility deters crime.”
Anyone who can identify the vehicle or has any information should call police at (202) 727-9099 or text your photos or tips to the Department’s anonymous Text Tip Line at 50411.
Crime Solvers of Washington DC currently offers a reward of up to $1,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for a crime committed in the District of Columbia.
The Hill Rag reached out to DC Public Schools for comment. This story will be updated if comment is received.