MUSC warns of 15 men assaulting, robbing people near Charleston campus

The alert Sunday morning warned of a group of assailants and robbers near the Medical University of South Carolina. PROVIDED)

Charleston Police responded to a purse snatching Saturday and several assaults on Sunday in downtown Charleston that prompted a crime alert from the Medical University of South Carolina warning of 15 men who were “assaulting and robbing” people near the campus.

But a media release from the police department downplayed the scope of the account and spokesman Charles Francis said more information wouldn’t be available until Monday.

The purse snatching occurred about 11:30 p.m. Saturday near 207 Rutledge Avenue, the release states. A couple was walking east when they were approached by about five juveniles. Some words were exchanged and the group left.

They returned a few minutes later and approached the couple again. The couple tried to walk on the sidewalk and the juveniles blocked their path, the release states. One of them knocked a purse out of the victim’s hand, picked it up and then fled down Cannon Street.

About 12:50 a.m., police responded to Vanderhorst and Coming streets in reference to a group of juveniles causing a disturbance in the area. Five men approached the officers and said they were assaulted by the group, according to the release. All injuries were treated at the scene and none of the victims were taken to the hospital.

Original information indicated a group of 15 to 16 juveniles were committing assaults and robberies in the downtown area. The release states that there were not any robberies involved, despite the purse snatching.

It appears there could be more incidents, however, than police reported Sunday.

A man who lives downtown, but would not give his name for fear the group may retaliate, said he was assaulted twice just before 2 a.m. He said he and his girlfriend were dropped off by an Uber driver at the corner of Rutledge Avenue and Sumpter Street and a group of at least 15 boys and girls were standing in the street.

When they walked through to get home, the man said “out of nowhere” he was hit in the side of his face.

He said he then urged his girlfriend to move faster so they could get home, and someone struck the side of his face again. When he pulled out his phone to call the cops, someone in the group laughed and said, “I don’t care if you call the cops,” he said.

“It’s a very strange event,” the man said, adding that no one in the group tried to take anything from him.

The man said he got home, locked the door and called police. Once on scene, an officer checked him out, asked if he needed help and then said he was busy and left without taking a report.

The man said Sunday night that no one from the police department had since followed up.

MUSC’s message was sent at 2:10 a.m. Sunday and said that the latest incident had happened about 30 minutes earlier at Rutledge Avenue and Cannon Street on the Charleston peninsula.

“Please be advised there has been a report of 15 black males assaulting and robbing subjects walking near MUSC campus area,” the alert stated.

MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said Sunday afternoon that she had no more information about the report. She said the school was waiting on further word from other local authorities.

“Our understanding is that the alert was issued to us from the Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center,” Woolwine said. “We are awaiting additional details ... and cannot provide more information until then.”

Tony Ciuffo, a hospital spokesman, later released a statement that said the same thing, but that any further details would need to come from the police department.

The school’s automated emergency message board on Sunday relayed a notice to callers about a storm in February.

Also, a man who answered the phone at the MUSC Department of Public Safety said he was not permitted to discuss the situation publicly.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede. Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.