Stevenson University students robbed at gunpoint in South Africa

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Pretoria, South Africa – Several Stevenson University, Maryland, United States students and chaperones were surrounded and robbed Sunday while on a tourist bus in South Africa, according to university police.

The group of 30 criminal justice students had just arrived in Pretoria, South Africa, for a five-week educational trip when the incident happened around 1 p.m. Sunday (7 a.m. in Maryland).

Eddie Carroll, a parent of Stevenson junior Branden Carroll, said his son was in the back of the bus when the robbers boarded.

“He said they just left the hotel and three guys hijacked the bus at gunpoint,” said Carroll, of Chestertown.

One student sent out an alarming text message, which caused parents to become frantic.

“Once they got stopped and saw the guys with guns, they knew they were going to be hijacked. One of the girls in the back of the bus — that’s how we found out — she texted her mother that they were getting ready to be hijacked and they were boarding the bus,” Carroll said.

The armed men stole passports and cash, officials said. No one was injured.

The South African government metropolitan police and its national police commissioner were immediately involved in the case, authorities said.

Counseling was offered for all involved but was declined.

One of the chaperones on the trip is Stevenson faculty member and former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld. He said the South African authorities are handling the incident as well as could be expected.

“The students remained calm and focused despite the pressure and fear, and the situation ended without injury to anyone,” Bealefeld said.

Carroll described the family’s fears before their son’s trip to South Africa and as they learned about the robbery.

“Not knowing what’s going on over there, you hear so much about hijackings and abductions,” Carroll said. “When we got that phone call that they were OK and at the U.S. Embassy, that was a good call.”

According to the parents, the students’ educational experience abroad may be cut short because the university plans to bring the group back home.

“They had to contact a security firm because lots of the kids don’t have passports or anything. They’re handling them and getting those passports, and they have to give us a time of when they’re coming back, but they’re putting them on the next available flight back,” Carroll said.

According to Jim Salvucci, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, “This is the fourth such tour of South Africa that the university has led, and no incidents have occurred in the past. Our chaperones are busy along with the American Embassy assisting with funds, passports and other support as needed.”…

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Stevenson University is a private, independent, coeducational, liberal arts college and university that is located in the Greenspring Valley area of Baltimore County, Maryland, United States.

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