Suspect of reported armed robbery near downtown is still at large


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A man who set off a HawkAlert when he allegedly robbed a woman at knifepoint in downtown Iowa City on Thursday afternoon was still at large Thursday night, officials said.


University of Iowa police Lt. Steve Dohrmann said officials hope to release more information on the suspect and the incident at 10 a.m. today.

Officials did not say what time the actual incident took place, but the Hawk Alert — the university's method for emergency notification — was issued at 2:15 p.m., with two additional updates.

Past Hawk Alerts

The University of Iowa has issued Hawk Alert messages in response to 10 incidents since 2008. Four of those Hawk Alerts have been non-weather related — the most recent of which occurred Thursday when a robbery was reported near downtown Iowa City.

• Thursday: UI officials issued a Hawk Alert about an attempted robbery near downtown Iowa City. Other reports said the robbery may have occurred near Hubbard Park. The suspect was still at large Thursday night.

• May 22: A tornado warning was issued for Johnson County.
• Nov. 14: A Hawk Alert about a possible armed suspect was issued by UI police more than an hour after Iowa City police received the initial report of a domestic dispute on campus.

• Dec. 15: Anthony Michael Koehlhoeffer escaped the UIHC on Dec. 14, assaulted a UI student, and stole her car. Koehlhoeffer then stole another vehicle. The Hawk Alert was sent nearly 10 hours after the initial report.

• June 21: A tornado warning was issued for Johnson County.

• March 24: An active shooter was reported in the Iowa City area at 5:58 p.m. At 6:36 p.m., officials determined the shooter posed no threat to any UI building or employee. Iowa City police later determined that Steven Sueppel killed his wife and four children before killing himself by crashing his minivan.
• April 22: A tornado warning was issued for Johnson County.
• April 25: A tornado warning was issued for southeastern Johnson County. Two separate Hawk Alerts were sent.
• June 14: A tornado warning was issued for Johnson County.
• July 2: A tornado warning was issued for northwestern Johnson County.

Source: Hawk Alert records, UI police

— by Kristen East

"Suspect of an attempted robbery may be in the area," the original alert read. "A white male, 5 feet 9 inches, 35 to 40 years old, displayed a knife to a woman and asked for her phone. Last seen eastbound on Washington Sreet toward downtown wearing red sweatshirt plaid shirt, glasses, gray facial hair."

Though Iowa City police are only assisting in the investigation, Iowa City police Lt. Bill Campbell said the robbery might have occurred near Hubbard Park.

After the original alert, officials never disclosed more details about the nature of the incident or the location of the suspect, except to say he still had not been taken into custody.

Officials and students said the alert was more timely and descriptive than previous Hawk Alerts.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the HawkAlert sent out to the university provided a sufficient amount of information considering the knowledge officials had at the time the alert was released.

"That [was] the information we had available," Moore said. "The UI police are in the midst of responding to the incident."

The last time the UI issued a HawkAlert was in November for an armed suspect on campus. The incident turned out to be the result of a domestic dispute. Many UI students expressed concern about the timeliness of that alert and the lack of detailed information.

UI freshman L.C. Graf-Juarez said she felt the UI did a much better job Thursday sending out the HawkAlert compared with previous times.

"I thought it worked out pretty well and it was definitely timely," Graf-Juarez said. "I have a reinforced belief in the HawkAlert system now."

She said she witnessed a man who fit the description given on the alert while riding a Cambus to Mayflower Residence Hall.

"We were at the Mayflower stop and saw a guy about 40 years old with facial hair who was out of breath, and he took off his scarf and hat and was standing by the trash can," she said. "People were conversing about it on the bus."

The Cambus driver operating the Hawkeye Interdorm reported the man who fit the description to the police, Graf-Juarez said.

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