Students victim to attempted robbery

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Photo: Caleb Dennis

Six APU students were threatened with knives about two weeks ago

Just after midnight on Sunday morning, Feb. 3, six APU students were approached by 21-year-old Azusa resident Jimmy Melgoza, 21-year-old Azusa resident Esteban Lopez and an unidentified female after they left Santana’s on Alosta Avenue.

The males initially offered the students drugs. When the students refused, Melgoza and Lopez asked for money. When the students refused again, the men pulled out knives and threatened to rob the students.

All six students fled in multiple directions, some to the Campus Safety office, while one of the male students called Azusa Police Department. Although the press release stated that no one was harmed in this incident, according to Lieutenant Mike Bertelsen of Azusa PD, one of the students was harmed by a knife.

We were alerted through Azusa Pacific Campus Safety personnel that they were with possible victims of the same crime in the same area that the original crime was reported to us,” Bertelsen said.

When the officers arrived at the scene, they found both male suspects walking down Rockvale Street and secured one. The second suspect ran into an apartment complex but was ultimately detained without further incident.

The female suspect has not been identified but the search for her has been discontinued.

“We initially canvassed the area to locate her, but at this point we are no longer actively looking for her,” Bertelsen said. “She wasn’t an outstanding suspect. She was more of a witness.”

Both Melgoza and Lopez were taken into custody and transported to the station. They have been arraigned and are in jail with bail set at $50,000 each, the standard amount for a crime of this nature, according to Bertelsen.

Campus Safety and Azusa PD worked together in this crime. This, however, is not unusual. Bertelsen, who is the liaison between the police department and APU and also the service coordinator for the area, explained that depending on the nature of the crime, APU and Azusa PD often work together.

In this situation, Campus Safety was able to retain the victims until Azusa PD responded to the site.

Oftentimes, students will notify Campus Safety if they are victimized
and, depending on the type of crime and seriousness, they will call us and we will
respond,” Bertelsen said. “In this case, we had the victims call us and Campus Safety also
responded to a call.”

Though Bertelsen has been away from the police department at training, he has been in communication with Campus Safety each day he’s been gone. In fact, Bertelsen explains that the police department and Campus Safety talk several times each day.

“We’re in regular communication with them for a variety of reasons,” Bertelsen said. “They are another set of eyes and ears for us. We have to respond to criminal activity on and around campus.”

Although this incident occurred in Azusa and involved APU students, the student body did not receive a Timely Warning—something that has been standard for crimes such as these in the past.

Bertelsen believes it is important that students are aware that these incidents are happening.

“I think there’s value to the student body being aware of these types of crimes. Although they are infrequent, they can occur,” Bertelsen said. “When they do happen, depending on the crime classification, I would suggest they call 911 directly. If it’s something of a lesser nature, like a bike being stolen, students should contact Campus Safety and they know how to handle it.”

Bertelsen stresses the importance of students being aware of their surroundings. Students must keep their heads up and eyes off of their iPhones. When individuals are busy texting or using Facebook, it is easy to be victimized.

Azusa PD also has a vested interest in the safety of the APU community. Bertelsen, who completed his graduate studies at APU, expressed that many of the individuals who work in the department are APU graduates.

“Not only are we interested in doing our job and doing it well, but we have another relationship with APU,” Bertelsen said. “We want to make sure it’s a safe campus and a healthy, productive learning environment for students who go there.”