Some local college students are learning painful lessons outside the classroom.
Over the last three weekends, four brutal attacks against students have occurred in University Heights and Elmwood Village.
Motives in the attacks appear to be different, from robbery to possible hazing, to disagreements between strangers, although all occurred late at night.
The most recent attack, just before 2 a.m. Sunday on the 100 block of Winspear Avenue near UB's South Campus, resulted in a 20-year-old student taking time off from school to undergo reconstructive facial surgery, a police official said.
That attack might have involved other students conducting fraternity hazing, according to police.
A week earlier, on the first block of Winspear, a UB senior was standing outside a late-night house party that was breaking up when he apparently had words with a group of young men walking by. The student ended up at Erie County Medical Center for treatment of facial injuries and internal bleeding.
In the early hours of Saturday on Labor Day weekend, two Buffalo State College students were severely beaten and robbed of their purses by four young men who slashed one of the women with a knife at about 4 a.m. at Richmond Avenue and Dorchester Road. The students were walking home from an Elmwood Avenue bar.
Several hours earlier, three Buffalo State students were attacked and robbed by five or six individuals at Potomac Avenue and Grant Street. As the students fled, one of the attackers fired several gunshots and wounded 18-year-old Jabril Muhammad, shattering his forearm. He has since returned to college.
Police on and off campuses say students need to realize they are attending school in an urban setting and should take special precautions to protect themselves.
"The City of Buffalo is an urban environment, and if you come from a rural section of the state, this is a different setting," Buffalo State College Police Chief Peter Carey said.
University at Buffalo police and city police continue to team up to increase foot, bicycle and car patrols, according to city police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge.
For those who have experienced violence off campus in recent weeks, the memories are traumatizing.
"We had just left the bars on Elmwood at about 4 a.m. and were on our way home and I heard people behind me. I turned around and I told my roommate to walk faster. These four guys started running and tackled us to the ground," Jordan Delaney, a Buffalo State senior, said of the Sept. 1 assault and robbery at Richmond and Dorchester.
"They didn't just snatch our purses. They literally yanked them from us until the cross-body purse straps snapped. I had bruises on my neck and shoulder from where they were pulling it," the 21-year-old said.
Police say they continue to make progress in solving this robbery.
As for the Winspear attacks, DeGeorge said:
"Police are looking at the possibility that these incidents may all involve students."
But for Delaney, who comes from a village in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, the attack is something she will never forget.
"I only had bruises and scratches, but my roommate was cut with a knife on her wrist and had to go to the hospital. She also had to get a CAT scan because she had a concussion. One of her front teeth has to be pulled because she was punched in the mouth," De aney said.
In the most recent attack, authorities say the 20-year-old student was returning home with his roommate when one accidentally brushed up against another student who was with as many as 20 other individuals, leading authorities to think the attack might have had some connection to fraternity pledging.
The roommates were kicked and punched and an attacker broke a bottle over the head of one of the roommates, which resulted in the need for surgery, a police official said.
For Brian Gold, a UB senior majoring in economics, the attack on him at about 2:30 a.m. Sept. 8 has provided a lesson in practicing caution.
Gold said he had just left a house party on Winspear and was congregating with others outside the house when, he acknowledged, he might have said something stupid to a group of young men walking past them.
He was punched and kicked into unconsciousness by four to 10 young men as 20 students watched, Gold said, explaining that the onlookers probably did not want to get involved for fear of their own safety.
"None of my bones were broken but I had some internal bleeding and my face was swollen," said Gold, who comes from Rochester and lives next to UB's North Campus in Amherst.
Since then, he says he has not stayed out late when socializing.
"If I do go out, it will be with friends. My advice to other students is use the buddy system, don't get too drunk and have a good time," Gold said.