Danielle tells us about a terrifying experience on her way home one night

If there had been cameras, lights and someone saying action I would have assumed I was just part of an episode of Law & Order. But I wasn’t – I was in the Bronx and I was being mugged.

For the guts of two months we’ve walked the same way home from work or from the clubs and we’ve had no hassle. It’s not the most comfortable 15-minute walk you’ll ever do, but it’s either that or pay $60 a week getting five-minute taxi rides.

We weren’t stupid about it – if there weren’t enough people around we would fork out for the taxi. On one occasion we found ourselves explaining this to two cops, who picked us up and drove us home because “it’s not the nicest area for girls like you to be walking”.

Thursday night was no different to any other night. I got off the subway with a few people and there were still people on the main street even if it was early in the morning.

Confused

I could’ve easily paid for a taxi. I could’ve easily gotten a later subway. I could’ve easily not gone out that night. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.

By the time I noticed the guy and tried to cross the road it was too late. I knew he was going to do something. I never thought he’d pull out a gun and tell me to give him my bag.

There I was standing with a gun pointed at me and I just remember feeling utterly confused. There will be people who will want to scold me for even conversing with the scumbag, but I couldn’t help it. I kept asking him why he was doing this.

Aware

I wasn’t hysterical, I was fully aware of the situation, but I really wanted to know. What was going on in his head and life that made him think it was okay to point a gun at me, to get MY bag with MY stuff in it.

I gave up when he started counting down from three and racked his gun. Being the giant coward that he was, he never looked at me in the eye and he was gone before I could say anything else.

In one fowl swoop, my phone, iPod, purse (with money, student card, driver’s licence etc.) were gone. I moved fast, even running for a bit, but I didn’t know what to feel. I was heading for home when I saw a police van parked one block over from where I live.

Police

I went up to the cops and calmly said: “Emmm, my bag was just stolen – at gunpoint”. That put a fire in their belly. They told me to get in the van and within 10 minutes all squad cars were driving around Fordham looking the guy that matched my description.

They drove me past a couple of guys who they had stopped for somewhat looking like the guy, and I just kept thinking about the minds of those they had stopped.

They brought me back to the precinct, took a full report and tried their best to lighten the mood. I appreciated what they were trying to do, but I can’t remember being that pissed off. Sure I was pissed off at the guy for scaring me and stealing from me.

However, the worst part was the shame and embarrassment that I didn’t deserve to feel. I had no control over the situation. I was powerless to stop him from stealing from me – I handed him my bag.

Then you wait for the flood of “Why didn’t you just get a taxi?” from the people around you. One tip for the nice officer who had given us a lift that one time: when you see a girl who has just been robbed at gun point, it’s not a good time for an “I told you so” moment.

Anger

I was dropped home to my apartment where I had to wake up my roommate to get her phone number so that detectives would have some way of contacting me.

I had to tell her what had happened. I’ll never forget it because she was horrified and upset and I just couldn’t feel anything other than anger.

A detective rang me the next morning to ask me to retell him what had happened. He asked me to come in to go through mug shots of previous convicts that matched my description. I had to go to work and even though I was finished early in the evening, I made sure to get a taxi to the precinct.

Surreal

I was told to ask for a certain detective and when I went in to the precinct I was met with the title “gun point case from last night”. Every single part of this story is real and yet still so surreal.

While waiting to be taken up to the detective I noticed the signs on the wall. Flyers hung explaining how men in the pictures below had been killed and what reward would be given for finding their killer. It struck me as a morbid auction type situation.

But the signs that really caught my eye were those relating to firearms. One said that anyone who anonymously tipped the police off about someone carrying illegal firearms would be rewarded in the sum of $1,000.

Another explained that anyone who handed in a gun would be paid $100 “No questions asked!”

Gun problem

I don’t know if we really understand in Ireland the absolute advantages of not having so many guns on the streets. They’re there I know, but the scale at which they cause damage isn’t remotely near that in the States.

I was then led to a room and showed about 500 photos on a computer that were supposed to match the description of the perpetrator, but I didn’t come across the guy. Another wave of disappointment/shame hit me because I thought even if I didn’t get my stuff back I’d have helped stop him.

Going through the mug shots was unsettling. I expected the homeless old men; the tattooed, angry looking men; and the beaten up faces. But every now and then, I’d hit a slide that couldn’t have been more than 15-years-old, who looked scared and genuinely sorry. How did they end up there?

To be honest, the cops were amazing through the whole thing. Despite the occasional “I told you so” comment, they did their very best to make sure I was okay and they are now following other avenues like camera footage and such to try and catch him.

I doubt they’ll catch him for this crime, but they’ll get him on something else. Separately, I genuinely don’t understand why there is a “debate” going on in America about the issue of gun control. They need to be off the streets as soon as possible.

The one thing that I am well aware of is that things could have been a lot worse. It was an expensive inconvenience, but not as expensive as my life would’ve been. Ironically, I’m going to advocate that wherever you are, whenever possible, always get a taxi.