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Vanderbilt University student killed on school trip to Israel

Posted at 3:09 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 15:09:53-05

NASHVILLE — A Vanderbilt graduate student was fatally wounded in a stabbing attack while on a school trip to Israel. In a statement, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said Taylor Force was killed in the attack near Tel Aviv. All other Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff on the trip are safe.

Force, 28, was a student at the Owen Graduate School of Management. He was also a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Zeppos said Force was part of the trip to understand global entrepreneurship and communicate with start-up businesses in Israel.

“He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service that is the hallmark of our wonderful Owen community. This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world,” Zeppos said in a statement.

At least 10 other people were injured in the knife spree. According to police, the attacker attempted to stab drivers waiting in traffic on a popular beach shopping promenade. He then stabbed three more people.

“Anybody that has met Taylor would know your life was improved getting to know him,” said Seth Thompson, Force’s friend from Lexington, KY. “He was a bright individual. Just the kind of guy you want to hang out with, you want around you.”

Thompson said graduate school was Force’s time to do something for himself.

“Being a West Point graduate, you know, serving his country proudly overseas, and now having the opportunity to pursue his own interests,” Thompson said. “If there was any way possible to add to the layers of tragedy, this would do it.”

Gina Thompson, a graduate of the Owen Graduate School of Management, spent last year on the same trip.

“It just blows my mind that a tragedy can happen on such a wonderful experience and opportunity,” she said.

University officials said resources will be available for faculty, students and staff to help them cope with the loss.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement concerning Force’s death:

I am horrified and saddened by the senseless attack that took the life of American student Taylor Force and wounded others. This is a tragic loss for his family, friends and the Vanderbilt community, and we send our sincere condolences to all of them in their time of grief. I join other officials from the U.S. in condemning this terrorist act that can never be justified or tolerated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote this on Facebook:

Tonight in Jaffa, a Palestinian terrorist from Qalqilya went on a stabbing rampage, murdering an American citizen and wounding 11 others. The attack was the third incident of its kind today, coming after a stabbing in Petach Tikvah and a shooting in Jerusalem.

I have been reading about the American who was murdered. His name is Taylor Force. He was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Taylor was visiting Israel with his classmates in order to expand his understanding of global entrepreneurship and also to share his insights and knowledge with start-ups in Israel.

Taylor served as a United States Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan after he graduated from West Point.

On behalf of the people of Israel, I send my condolences to Taylor’s family and friends. May his memory be a blessing.