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Saturday, May 25, 2024

UF students report being shot with BB gun near campus

The shooter was in a moving car, alleged victims say

Out of the corner of his eye, Fernando Ocon saw a small, beige sedan while he was walking home Aug. 30 through the UF Innovation District between downtown Gainesville and UF campus. 

Soon, the car stopped right next to him, a man inside the car rolled down his window and opened fire with a BB gun. The man shot Ocon in his upper arm, the 23-year-old senior information systems and economics senior said. 

“It was painful,” Ocon said. “It was hurting for three or four minutes, but it was nothing severe.”

The Alligator interviewed three UF students who said they were shot with what they believe to be a BB gun by people driving in a beat-up tan and gold car last week. Students in the area have circulated multiple threads on Reddit sharing similar stories and concerns. 

One person filed a police report Friday with the Gainesville Police Department. However, it was the only one as of Wednesday — 8 days after the first reported incident, said Veronica Rochelle, a GPD records shift supervisor. 

Ocon’s description was similar to that of 20-year-old UF biology junior Ibrahim Siddiqui, who said he was shot Thursday near Gainesville Place Apartments at 2800 SW 35th Place.

Siddiqui said he and his friend were walking to Taco Bell after studying for their organic chemistry course when he felt something hit his chest. At first, Siddiqui said he thought it was a bug that hit him. 

“I looked up and I saw a beige, tanish, old kind of police cruiser that was kind of beat up with people aiming the BB gun at us,” he said.

Siddiqui’s companion — Saim Shaikh, a 21-year-old UF food science senior — said it was around 7:50 p.m. when they heard a pop noise. He also described the car as gold, tan and beat up. It became clear what happened when Shaikh saw pieces of the pellet from the gun on the floor, he said. 

Mat Plaza, a 20-year-old UF computer science junior, said he was shot with a BB gun in his back when he was walking near McDonalds at 1206 W. University Ave. Friday.

He felt something hit him in the back, he said. When he turned around he saw a tanish, beige and beat up sedan speed away. Plaza said he didn’t bleed and the red mark faded, so he moved on with his day.

Plaza didn’t file a police report because of the lack of severe injury, he said.

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Shooting people with a BB gun is aggravated battery, which is a felony, GPD spokesperson Shelley Postle said.

The case is currently under investigation with no suspects as of Wednesday, she said.

Students should keep their head on a swivel, making sure they are aware of their surroundings while the investigation continues, Postle said.

“Always, always, always call it in,” Postle said. “Call it in immediately so that we can get there as soon as possible, try to find this suspect and bring them to justice.”

Contact Alexa at Follow her on Twitter @alexakherrera.

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Alexa Herrera

Alexa Herrera is a junior journalism major who is the metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. She is also a copy editor for The Florida Political Review and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time she enjoys cheering on the New York Rangers during hockey season, listening to Harry Styles and spending time with her friends.

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