This is the final entry in a two-part series about a knife-point robbery at Cornell and the unlikely bystander who helped stop him. Read the first part here.
Ithaca, N.Y. — A Syracuse University professor spending his sabbatical at Cornell was walking to meet his wife in Weill Hall in November 2013 when he heard screaming.
“Help, help! Please someone!”
The screaming was coming from an employee at Synapsis who had just been robbed at knifepoint in the cafe’s kitchen.
After being threatened, the employee fled into the lobby of Weill Hall.
Rishawn Vieweg, 25, fled down the hall, just as the Syracuse professor — named Jay Hubisz — was walking into the building, according to court documents that provide this account.
“I saw (Vieweg) running quickly down the hall towards the entrance where I was standing,” Hubisz said.
Vieweg was wearing dark pants and a dark long sleeved shirt material, and a light colored hat with tassel-like sides hanging by the ears.
“He was carrying something in his hands in front of his midsection,” Hubisz said.
Hubisz yelled at Vieweg, telling him to stop. Vieweg yelled something indiscernible back.
Vieweg did not stop running, Hubisz later told police. That’s when Hubsiz had to decide to act. The professor grabbed the robber by the back of the robber’s shirt.
“We struggled through both sets of doors with me holding and struggling with him,” Hubisz said.
“He continued to try to shake me off outside. At some point he pulled free and ran off and a bunch of stuff went flying everywhere.”
The “bunch of stuff” was cash.
“As soon as I realized it was a pile of money, I recognized it was a robbery and I started screaming as he ran in the direction of Plant Sciences, ‘Thief, Thief, call the police immediately!’” said Hubisz, an SU physics professor.
Hubisz gathered up the money with another bystander, and later handed it over to the police.
Hubisz later identified Vieweg as he sat in the backseat of a police vehicle about 25 feet away.
“The suspect was well-illuminated by the lights on the police car,” Hubiz said. “The person illuminated was an African-American male, had the same facial structure, was wearing a similar hat to the one worn by the person I had struggled with in Weill Hall and I recognized the upper lip stubble.”
The Synapsis employee was also asked to identify Vieweg by police officers. She was unable to identify Vieweg as the robber because his face was obscured, but she did recognize him as a former Synapsis worker.
Vieweg was found guilty on robbery charges in June.
Extensive police records have now been made public that show what precipitated the robbery and its aftermath.
On Nov. 19, Officer Michael Scott received a radio call at about 4:40 p.m. about an armed robbery of Synapsis. The suspect was described as a black male, about 5 feet and 6 inches tall, wearing a dark hoodie, jeans, and a blue or white hat or scarf.
As Officer Scott neared Synapsis, he was told that the suspect had fled into the Plant Sciences Building.
When inside the building, Officer Scott observed a person roughly matching the suspect’s description. The suspect quickly looked at the uniformed officer and immediately turned away and began moving quickly.
“After repeated loud requests to stop, the individual finally complied,” Scott said.
“He did not have a coat on despite the cold weather and admitted he had no affiliation with the university. He claimed he was supposed to meet his girlfriend on the campus but he declined to give her name.”
Officer Scott handcuffed the suspect and told him he was being investigated for involvement in a robbery.
At the police station, Vieweg declined to waive his Miranda rights, law enforcement said.
But when he made a telephone call in the presence of the arresting officer, Vieweg said, “I (expletive) up, I (expletive) up real bad…I going away for a while,” according to law enforcement.
During the trial, Vieweg’s defense challenged his initial detention, the procedure by which he was identified and the admissibility of Vieweg’s telephone statements at the police station.
But at a hearing, the court found that Officer Scott had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when he detained Vieweg for further questioning. His decision to handcuff Vieweg was ruled as prudent for safety reasons.
Because Vieweg had been read his Miranda rights, any statements made were admissible, the court found.
According to court documents, Vieweg has a criminal history that includes five arrests, one felony conviction, one misdemeanor conviction and two bench warrants.
In September 2006, Vieweg was adjudicated as a youth offender in Ithaca City Court and was sentenced to a three-year term of probation. Bench warrants were issued in relation to the violation and he was sentenced to 5 months in jail.
He was also convicted of attempted petit larceny in Ithaca City Court in June 2008 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
In July 2008, Vieweg was convicted of attempted burglary in the second degree in Tompkins County Court and was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of post release supervision.
Vieweg was released on parole in June 2010 but that was revoked in November 2010, and Vieweg returned to prison.
He was released from prison and discharged from parole on June 29, 2012, according to court documents.
On July 3, Vieweg was convicted after the jury deliberated for around 90 minutes, the DA’s office said. As a violent felon, Vieweg faces a minimum sentencing of 10 years and a maximum of 25 years.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 16.