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Victim to armed robbers: Turn yourselves in and I'll pay for your college

Dr. Victor Ho lives in an upscale Houston neighborhood. He never imagined he’d be a victim of a violent crime. But that changed the day he came home to find himself face-to-face with two armed robbers.

However, instead of feeling anger towards the young men who threatened him and his family’s safety, Ho and his wife, Arielle Lawson, instead threw them a lifeline: the offer of a free education.

“We thought, how can we show our children how to make a good situation out of a bad situation and be a better person than the person who did this to us?” Ho told TODAY.com.

Today
Victor Ho, his wife Arielle Lawson, and their children.

On the afternoon of Oct. 17, Ho picked up two of his three children from school and pulled up to his Houston home to find a white van facing outward, looking like it was getting ready to leave. As the van began to pull away, Ho rolled down his window to ask the young driver if he could help him. The driver said he was waiting for someone, and drove away.

Instinctively, Ho’s 11-year-old daughter knew something was wrong. “She said ‘Dad, you have to call the police.’”

But Ho, a SWAT-trained emergency room doctor, continued toward the house, pulling around to the side entrance. Leaving his children in the car, he went to investigate.

Moments later, out of the view of his children, he heard the sound of a gun chamber. One of the robbers, his face hidden by a ski mask, had a gun to his head. “He said, 'I’m not gonna kill you, just do what I say,'” Ho recalled.

The man walked Ho to the front of the house where there was another armed and masked man. Instructed to open the house’s safe, Ho did so and handed over $3,000 in cash and what little else was in the safe.

But the two men grew agitated, asking for jewelry and more money. In such a situation, Ho said, “Your subconscious will kick in, your reflexes will kick in. You keep your cool; you have to. And towards the end I started realizing, you've got to stay alive."

It soon became apparent that the men were amateurs. They pushed Ho against a wall, but didn’t tie him up. They took the money from his wallet, but then gave it back to him and just took his watch. Even when they eventually did tie Ho up, they did it ineptly.

“I could tell [one of the guys] was scared,” Ho recalled. He tried to reason with him: “I said, 'What if my kids walk in?'”

Realizing they weren’t going to get much more from Ho, the men left him tied up on the floor, warning him not to call the cops. As soon as they left, Ho was able to wriggle free and call police. His children walked in and, three minutes later, local police arrived.

The robbers weren't caught and remain at large. “We offered a reward, then increased [the] reward," Ho told TODAY.com. "And we realized, if they’re caught, they’re just going to go back out on the street.”

That’s when Ho and his wife decided to offer educations to the young men if they turned themselves in and accepted the consequences of their actions. Whether it's trade school, college or any sort of professional training, Ho — who was raised by Taiwanese immigrant parents who valued education — is willing to pay for it all.

“We want to show our kids that we’re the better people, and maybe change the mentality of some of these kids who probably didn’t have the opportunity for an education,” he explained. “Maybe it will work to get someone off the street. Maybe it will raise social consciousness.”

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