March 27, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Universal Gear store robbed
Universal Gear, gay news, Washington Blade

Universal Gear (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. men’s clothing store Universal Gear, which is gay owned, lost about $5,000 in merchandise on Saturday morning, March 23, in a snatch-and-grab robbery committed by two unidentified male suspects, according to store official Yemi Mengistu.

Mengistu said the incident at the upscale store at 1529 14th St., N.W., marked the fifth time it has been victimized by similar robberies since 2009. As it has since 2009, Universal Gear’s owner, David Franco, has posted on YouTube a video of the robbery in progress taken from the store’s surveillance cameras.

D.C. police have listed the incident as a robbery and assault, Mengistu told the Blade, because one of the two suspects assaulted her as she tried to stop them from leaving while they carried large quantities of clothes form the store’s racks.

Franco has urged police to assign more foot patrol officers to the 14th Street business district where Universal Gear is located as a means of deterring what he has called an ongoing series of robberies by brazen young men, some appearing to be teenagers, who have targeted his store.

Similar to the past incidents, the latest two suspects posed as customers browsing the store before grabbing merchandise and running out into a getaway car parked nearby.

The store is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any of the suspects involved in the robberies. Anyone with information about the latest or past incidents should call Universal Gear at 202-319-0136 and the D.C. police crime line at 202-727-9099.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • Sad to say…I was across the street at 14th/Q (west side of 14th) the time these guys ran out of the store with the clothing. They ran out and turned north toward Q St. and then cut thru the alley next to the new restaurant that is under construction. Their backs were to me so I didn't get a good view of anything other than them running with the clothes. I hope Universal Gear is able to do something to stop these repeated criminal acts against their store.

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