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Monday, October 18, 2021

UF students robbed at gunpoint on South Africa trip

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More than 20 UF students were robbed at gunpoint in South Africa during a UF trip.

A UF faculty member, staff member and 21 UF students in the Lombardi & Stamps Scholarship program, part of the UF Honors Program, were robbed at gunpoint Monday morning local time (six hours ahead of Gainesville) near Pretoria, South Africa, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in an email.

honors screenshot

An Instragram post from the UF Stamps Scholars account that shows the students traveling to South Africa. 

This is the first time an incident like this has happened on this trip, which occurs every two years, Orlando said. UF will be evaluating this program and location.

The students and staff were on a bus headed from the University of Pretoria to visit a nearby township, Orlando said. A car with six armed gunmen followed the bus through a security gate.

The gunmen did not order the UF group off the bus as previously reported. Instead the group got off and the gunmen followed them into the classroom, Orlando said.

This update of information was provided by a staff member present, and the misunderstanding was a result of information being passed through multiple people, Orlando said.

Once in the classroom, with the schoolchildren also in the room, members of the UF group were ordered to hand over all their valuables, he said. The group cooperated, and the gunmen left.

No UF students were physically harmed, and local residents came to protect the UF group, Orlando said. One local resident was grazed by a bullet and another was pistol-whipped, and the UF students provided them with first aid.

“We’re just tremendously thankful that everyone is OK and grateful to the local residents who came to help our group,” Orlando said.

The students are now back at the University of Pretoria, where they met with counselors and U.S. Embassy personnel, he said. Three students are in the process of returning to the U.S.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that the gunmen did not order the group off the bus. The Alligator reported otherwise based on the information at the time. 

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