ATECH-SAVVY Drexel University student, who was one of 11 people robbed at gunpoint in West Philadelphia Thursday night, helped police quickly nab the robbers using an iPhone app and police said yesterday the suspects are being investigated in five other holdups.
The student and four others were approached by a man and a woman who pulled guns and stole their iPhones near the campus at 10:20 p.m. They were the last group targeted in a two-hour spree of four robberies on the outskirts of University City that night, Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives said.
In the first robbery at 8:30 p.m., a rowing coach and a student from New York's Clarkson University - who are in town for the Dad Vail Regatta - were approached by the same two gun-toting thugs and a third robber on Sansom Street a few blocks from Penn's campus, Walker said. The trio took a wallet and an iPhone.
At 8:45 p.m., three people were by Clark Park when they were accosted by the same robbers. Their phones were stolen, too. Fifteen minutes later, the robbers struck again nearby, taking another man's phone.
Not long after, cops said, the robbers chose the wrong group of students to target - after all five of the students gave up their iPhones at gunpoint, one began tracking his using a GPS app on someone else's phone.
"[They] approached us and flashed a gun," said the victim, a Drexel senior who requested anonymity. "I was able to use [the] app and get them arrested."
The 22-year-old used a "Find my iPhone" app to remotely track the bandits using GPS. He was able to tell police their location.
Walker said the "technologically savvy" student's quick thinking helped, and within 15 minutes, a University of Pennsylvania cop located the robbers in a Honda on 44th Street near Baltimore Avenue. He pulled them over, and one man took off running, but the other two were arrested on the spot. Those two, Sean King and Shalina Watts, both 25, were identified by the victims as the robbers, police said.
King had the student's iPhone in his pocket, police said. When cops searched the Honda yesterday, they found eight other stolen phones. King and Watts are charged with aggravated assault, robbery and related offenses.
Though the robbers were nabbed quickly, the student said he doesn't understand why the university never sent an alert warning others of the crime.
"I've been there for five years and I'm always getting these notifications about stuff happening, and then I get robbed right on campus and they just don't do anything about it," he said.
Drexel University Vice President for Public Safety Domenic Ceccanecchio said officials were about to send an alert until they heard arrests had been made.
"If there was any chance that there was a threat to our community out there, the message would have gone out," Ceccanecchio said. "We have to use good judgment and make a determination of whether it's going to be a threat to our students, faculty and staff."
Walker said police are looking into the possibility that the two are also responsible for five other robberies in West Philadelphia in the last two weeks.
Police are still on the hunt for a third man wanted in connection with the robberies.
Anyone with information about any of the robberies should call police at 215-686-3183.