STUDENTS THREATENED WITH A KNIFE IN FUNDRAISING STICK-UP

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By Kaydi Pyette

Ryerson security has launched an investigation into a possible knife-point robbery last week, when a man claiming to be armed with a weapon accosted a group of students selling tickets to an RTA event, and ran off with their cashbox.

The ticket table for RIOT, the Radio and Television Arts’ annual sketch comedy show, was robbed of approximately $275 last Wednesday morning in the atrium of the Roger’s Communication Centre.

“My friend had just bought a ticket and left. Then this shifty looking bald guy walked in. He grabbed the float box and said, ‘I’m taking this,’” said Jeremy Mersereau, a third-year RTA student. “At first, I thought it must be a mistake. I’d never seen the guy before.”

When Mersereau resisted the man’s attempt to take the cashbox, he said the thief shoved his hand in his pocket, demanding Mersereau look at what he implied to be a concealed knife.

“It wasn’t that scary because I was 98 per cent sure he didn’t have a knife. But it was better not to take that chance,” Mersereau said.

He immediately spotted a Ryerson security officer outside and reported the incident. The robbery shocked everyone involved in the production, said RIOT producer Ali Campeau, adding she is glad Mersereau handed over the cash, despite the loss of funds.

“You just don’t want to take that chance,” she said. Following the robbery, an e-mail sent out by radio and television arts student affairs coordinator Liz Gesicki encouraged students to “collect money away from the atrium area.”

Campeau said RIOT considered selling tickets somewhere else, but were told to reconsider because the RCC’s video cameras offered safety.

Ryerson security manager Lawrence Robinson said “grab-the-money-and-run incidents have occurred before and happen on occasion.” He declined to talk more about the incident. “We have robbery prevention programs and various safety measures that groups can take to reduce the likelihood of this happening.”

The male thief, described by Ryerson security, is approximately 40 years old, tall, thin and fair. He was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt, black vest, gray jeans and glasses.

A portion of the stolen money was going towards repaying out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the RIOT group for lights, props and costumes.

This year RIOT has spent more than the usual $2,500 budget. Final totals of RIOT’s expenses aren’t expected for several days. James Boyd, director of RIOT, still has anxieties about how well the show fared financially.

“I don’t know if we’ll end up in the black or the red,” he said, noting that most of the money the show makes comes from ticket sales.

However, Campeau was optimistic. She said she was “pretty sure we’ll get back what we spent because the show went very well.”

Boyd added that students and faculty have been very supportive and were willing to help out to ensure the production went according to plan. RTA faculty plan to help students recover their $275 loss.

The RTA program itself will come up with $150 and the rest will be paid back from RTA faculty donations. “I think it’s wonderful,” said Dana Lee, faculty coordinator for RIOT, of the collection.

“It shows the true spirit of RTA, that despite everything the show must go on.” Even with the setbacks and a thief still on the loose, the RIOT team members were not daunted pre-show.

“Despite all the adversity, we put on a fantastic show,” Campeau said.

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