Flashing blue lights, police cars blocking the streets and officers yelling at residents to remain inside greeted Amelia Butler as she walked home early Friday morning.
Butler, a 19-year-old public relations sophomore, was walking to the Delta Zeta sorority house at about 1 a.m. when she witnessed the aftermath of an armed robbery that took place around midnight near Sorority Row.
"It was a little intense," said Butler, who is the sorority's house manager. "I was just like, ‘Oh wow, another one?'"
A 24-year-old UF student and a 27-year-old woman were walking on Southwest Ninth Street when a man ran up from behind and pointed a handgun at the student's face, said Gainesville Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Angelina Valuri. The woman gave up her purse, which was later found at Southwest Fifth Avenue, about a block north of the attacks.
The suspect ran north after the attack and is still at large. The second woman present described him as a black man in his late 20s, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and of average build.
The robbery was the second in the neighborhood in the past month. On Dec. 9, a man robbed and attempted to rape a UF student.
The recent crimes near Sorority Row prompted Butler to register for a women's self-defense course sponsored by the University Police Department.
The Community Services Division of UPD is registering members of UF sororities for a free Rape Aggression Defense, or R.A.D., course. Registration for sorority women began Monday, Jan. 9 and will continue until Feb. 28.
The course consists of four three-hour sessions. Classes will begin Tuesday, March 13 for the sorority women and will be taught over several weeks, said Officer Susan Pratt of UPD's Community Services Division. She also serves as the R.A.D. and radKIDS coordinator.
Each session in the course will be available for several days before the next one starts.
Course completion requires that participants attend the first three sessions, which include a lecture, basic techniques and practicing defense combinations with an instructor.
However, Pratt said the fourth session is everyone's favorite: the "fight day" when participants get to fight with police officers.
"When people walk out of here, they feel so proud of themselves because they one, finished it, and two, they got away safely," she said. "That's our main objective: to escape."
The only men allowed into classes are certified R.A.D. instructors.
Maria Keely, Kappa Alpha Theta's chief Panhellenic officer, said that with recent incidents, it is important for women to learn about their options.
"When it starts happening to your friends and to your sisters, you want to make sure that everything is going to be as safe as possible," said Keely, a 20-year-old occupational therapy sophomore.
Alligator Staff Writer Tyler Jett contributed to this report.