Authorities investigate string of Campbell University armed robberies

BUIES CREEK, N.C. (WTVD) -- An arrest has been made in connection with a string of overnight armed robberies involving several Campbell University students.

Trevon Deandre Rice, 19, faces several charges including possession of a gun on school property, first-degree burglary, second-degree kidnapping, assault by pointing a gun. and communicating threats.

Harnett County authorities said Rice, a Rocky Mount resident, is responsible for holding up four Campbell University students Monday night in a spree that began around 7 p.m. The armed robberies all occurred in off-campus student housing, within a mile radius of campus.

The first two victims, female students, said he held them at gunpoint and took their cell phones from an off-campus townhome in the 100 block of Gregory Circle in Lillington. They described Rice as having dreadlocks, a thin mustache, wearing a mask, camouflage jacket, and dark pants. They said he had a "long gun." A friend of one of the victims said her door was unlocked.

Nearly two hours later, a second burglary and robbery was reported about a mile away in the 100 block Linsey Court. A male and female victim used the same suspect descriptions as the first two victims, and said the suspect walked into the male's apartment demanding the victim's cell phone. The victims said the suspect held them up with a rifle with a scope.

As a search for the suspect began, students say both off-campus housing complexes were blocked off to traffic.

By 1:45 a.m., two Campbell University students reported a suspicious white Acura at the McDonald's on Bain Street in Lillington, about five miles from the campus. The students saw two black males and a black female in the car. They said one of the males, who had dreadlocks, kept ducking in the back seat.

By 6:30 a.m., deputies found and stopped the car on campus along Main Street. They said they located a ski mask, white glove, and the gun described by the victims. Those items were in a residence in Buies Creek that students said was located on campus, as well. Authorities, who did not provide a specific address for that residence, arrested and charged Rice, who was a passenger in that car.

It's unclear the identities of the other two occupants in the car, or their connection to the campus.

On Tuesday, a Campbell University official said Rice is not a student, but authorities are looking into whether he's an acquaintance of one or more students.

Christopher Hale is one of the Campbell students who called in the suspect at McDonald's. He didn't realize the connection to the armed robberies until authorities released details about Rice's arrest Tuesday morning.

Hale said he is also a friend of one of the victims.

"She's shaken up," said Hale. "No school officials have reached out to her. She's just been at home all day."

Hale said he was disappointed that the campus was not put on lockdown during the 11-hour search for Rice.

"My concern is the safety of Campbell University," said Hale. "They didn't let us know really any detailed information. An armed robbery is different than a robbery. They didn't let us know. They didn't put the campus on lockdown, even when the search was going on, and students were going to social media concerned -- tweeting Campbell, tagging them and Campbell had no response until 9 this morning when classes resumed."

At 9:44 p.m Monday, a campus-wide email from the Student Life Office warned students of the Gregory Circle robbery, and encourage them to be cautious when opening a door to a knock.

Britt Davis, the university's Vice President of Institutional Advancement called the events "unfortunate" in an email updating the campus at 9:04 a.m. Tuesday. Davis assured the campus community that none of the students had been injured during the hold-ups. He also said university officials determined a lockdown was unnecessary Monday evening because authorities knew who and what they were after.

"The Sheriff's Department determined that the University was properly secured," said Davis, pointing out campus security guards were in place during the search. "We did not believe anyone was in any immediate danger."

Davis also said key cards were necessary to access campus buildings.

Rice is currently in the Harnett County Detention Center with no bond.

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