Free supply is the best supply — that's a bedrock principle of street economics 101 and a lesson Temple student Massimo Pulcini learned the hard way last week.
Pulcini, 21, a journalism major in Temple's School of Communications and Theater — and a marijuana dealer, according to police — was watching the HBO series Game of Thrones with his roommate and three friends Sunday night when two men walked through the unlocked front door of his rowhouse apartment, less than two blocks from campus, and pulled silver handguns.
"Where's the exotic?" one of them shouted, referring to Pulcini's alleged stash.
Jamar Trusty, 20, one of the alleged intruders, was described by police as a customer of Pulcini's from the neighborhood. He forced Pulcini upstairs to his bedroom, which was decorated with a "Forever 27 Club" poster — an ode to fallen rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, who all died at 27.
Pulcini handed over about $900 and a Ziploc bag the size of a small pillow, filled with about four ounces of marijuana worth an estimated $1,250 on the street, police said.
Before leaving, the gunmen stole everyone's cellphones.
Police do not believe any of the other victims were dealing; one of them called police.
Temple police arrested Trusty within the hour walking near his home, just a few blocks away. He is being held on 10 percent of $150,000 bail. Police are still searching for two unidentified suspects.
Meanwhile, Pulcini, originally from Mount Laurel, was arrested on charges of drug dealing for the marijuana that was allegedly stolen from him. He is free after posting bail (court records did not say how much) and is awaiting an arraignment hearing scheduled for Tuesday. This is his first arrest.
No one answered the door of his rowhouse apartment on the 1500 block of Page Street on Friday afternoon.
Pulcini interned for Philadelphia City Paper last year, writing live music reviews and a weekly sports column for the paper's website titled "Notes From the Nosebleeds."
"I want to meet interesting, talented, and unique people, and tell the world about them," he wrote on his LinkedIn page.
Trusty has one prior arrest as a juvenile for receiving stolen property.
On Friday, Trusty's older brother answered the door to their 16th Street apartment. The man did not want to give his name, but said that he had just gotten out of prison for his own drug charges. He had not talked with his younger brother since the robbery, he said.
"Maybe it's a case of mistaken identity," he shrugged.
The incident comes after a spurt of seven similar home invasions around Temple between 2009 and early 2011, where students living near campus — dealing "midlevel" amounts of marijuana — were robbed or beaten by intruders, said Capt. Branville Bard of the 22d District, which covers the North Philadelphia neighborhood around Temple.
The student dealers present fat targets for local dealers, since they are unlikely to be armed, but will have drugs, cash, and laptops lying around. Bard said the Page Street robbery was not connected to earlier robberies. Unlike Pulcini, none of the students targeted in the previous robberies were arrested, since police did not recover stolen drugs, Bard said.
Before last week, there had not been a drug-related home invasion involving Temple students since September, Bard said.
A narrow street between Norris and Diamond, on the west side of Broad, Page Street is just around the corner from Temple's large practice field.
It's near the northern border of the North Philadelphia sector where so many students live off-campus: roughly 13th to 18th Street and Jefferson to Susquehanna Avenue. In recent years, in students' search for cheap rents, Temple's boundaries have been stretching north and also been moving into streets east of Broad.
On Friday, students brushed away the headlines about the home invasion, saying it did not make them any more concerned for their own safety.
"Don't sell drugs — come on, now," said Mike Mirabella, 21, a junior from Galloway Township, N.J., who was walking past Page Street, heading back to his off-campus apartment.
Mirabella and his friend Catie Messick, 21, a senior biology major, said living off-campus could be dangerous enough, never mind selling drugs.
"You can't be so naive," she said.
Raymond Betzner, a Temple spokesman, said the university is prohibited by law from discussing any school disciplinary action against Pulcini.
"Temple has a disciplinary process, and typically any student who is charged with a crime faces that process," he said.
To protect students living off campus, the university operates a shuttle service from campus and also has a service that takes off-campus students directly to their front doors at night.
Temple Police Department's 130 officers and Philadelphia Police provide extra car, bike, and foot patrols in a "safe corridor" surrounding the university, Bard said.
Both Mirabella and Messick, originally from Palmerton, Pa., population 5,209 near the Blue Mountains, have been victims of crime near campus. Someone broke into Mirabella's house two Christmases ago and stole his racing bike. And someone punched Messick from behind as she walked home in broad daylight. Local residents who witnessed the attack chased and surrounded the thief and got her phone back.
"I thanked them so much," she said.
You have to be street-smart if you're living off-campus, the two students said, and respectful of neighbors not always thrilled with the behavior of college students. The easiest way to find trouble is to go looking for it, they agreed.
As they talked, a car backfired. Neither of them flinched.
That same sentiment was reinforced by two freshmen, Alex, 20, and Matt, 18, who were smoking a joint on the steps of a rowhouse a Camac Street, a couple of blocks northeast of campus, the same block where a 23-year-old Penn State Abington student was killed for his motorcycle last year.
Alex and Matt said one of their friends had been beaten and robbed during the school year while trying to score pot off some corner drug dealers north of Susquehanna Avenue.
The attackers stripped their friend of nearly all his clothes and pistol-whipped him, they said.
"He kind of got burned," Alex said, taking a drag. "He didn't get his money back."