Stevenson students robbed in South Africa; university cuts trip short

No one was injured, university says; chaperones included former Baltimore police commissioner Bealefeld

May 12, 2014|By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun

A group of students on a tour of South Africa led by Stevenson University was robbed on Sunday while traveling in Pretoria, a school spokeswoman said.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred about 1 p.m. local time in the South African capital, spokeswoman Glenda LeGendre said.

College officials said Monday that the students and chaperones will be returning home by the end of the week.

The university made the decision to cut the five-week tour short to ensure their well-being.

“The students are for the most part reluctant to come back,”  LeGendre said Monday. “But we don’t know how they’ll be reacting to this later.”

Stevenson officials notified parents on Sunday.

"The good news is the students are safe and secure and the government there is completely supportive," LeGendre said. She said Sunday all have been offered counseling, but so far have declined.

Thirty students and five chaperones from Stevenson were traveling on a tourist bus shortly after their arrival in the country when they were surrounded by men on motorcycles, LeGendre said. The men boarded the bus, threatened the group and demanded money.

Students and chaperones lost wallets, cell phones, cameras and passports, LeGendre said. She said South Africa's national police commissioner became involved immediately.

The chaperones included retired Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who teaches criminal justice at the university in Baltimore County.

"The students remained calm and focused despite the pressure and fear, and the situation ended without injury to anyone," Bealefeld said in a statement released by Stevenson. He said local authorities were supportive and are handling the incident as well as can be expected.

Former Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Bealefeld called him after the incident. Guglielmi said Bealefield was traveling with the group as a chaperone and planned to help train the South African Police Service. He said Bealefeld was not traveling with the group to provide security, and was not carrying a weapon at the time of the robbery.

The group arrived in South Africa over the weekend to begin the five-week program of study, work and travel, LeGendre said.

Jim Salvucci, the dean of Stevenson's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, had planned before the robbery to meet the group in South Africa. He was in Maryland at the time of the incident.

"This is the fourth such tour of South Africa that the university has led and no incidents have occurred in the past," Salvucci said in a statement. "Our chaperones are busy along with the American embassy assisting with funds, passports and other support as needed."

Baltimore Sun reporter Nayana Davis contributed to this article.

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