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Caught on camera: Utah couple escapes machete-wielding bandits

Caught on camera: Utah couple escapes machete wielding bandits (Courtesy: Lauren Swenson)

(KUTV) -- The dash cam video unfolds like a scene from a movie or a video game.

A Utah couple living in Kenya posted a dash cam video to Facebook showing machete wielding bandits trying to attack their vehicle.

"No, I am not Jason Bourne," Lauren Swenson said of the incident, which happened Friday at 11:00 a.m. Kenya time.

Lauren and her husband Bryant were on their way to do some filming with their Kenyan trainers Shiv and Collins to promote their CrossFit gym, which they have opened in Kenya.

Since traffic on the main road was jam-packed, they took a detour on a dirt road.

They passed two officers on foot with machine guns who gestured for the Swensons to give them a ride.

The couple did not pick up the officers.

"Deciding not to pick them up kept this incident from being much worse," Lauren Swenson said. "For me, everything unfolded as if it was a cartoon - seriously. I really didn’t process what was happening as dangerous. It just seemed odd and sort of like a Jackie Chan-style scripted bad guy chase."

Once they passed the officers, the Swensons came across a white public transport vehicle stopped in the middle of the road.

"I thought maybe it was dropping somebody off, but Shiv and Collins both immediately knew something was amiss," Lauren Swenson said.


The Swenson's trainers told them to "just drive" and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

Bryant's window was down, so he backed the vehicle up to buy some time to roll it up.

"When he threw the car into first gear his window was only partially up. He and the car were unscathed by the panga (machete weilding) dude," Lauren Swenson said.

Luckily the Swensons were able to "high-tail" it out of the situation.

You can read Lauren Swenson's entire account of the ordeal below:

"One thing I’ve learned about myself while living here, is that I don’t have reflexes like Jason Bourne. In CrossFit, we say we’re training people to be ready for anything, but sometimes being ready means being able to recognize in a split moment, that something isn’t right. Knowing your context is so important! I’m very grateful that we drove Bryant’s Land Cruiser yesterday, and that we had two sharp Kenyans with us. Thank you, Jesus, for your protection.
The footage is from our dash cam. Here’s the story:
Bryant and I were on our way to do some filming for FirstPower Fitness with two of our trainers, Shiv and Collins , and we took an alternate route due to a massive traffic jam on the highway. Not long after leaving the paved road, we passed two patrolling officers on foot with machine guns who gestured for us to give them a ride. Deciding not to pick them up kept this incident from being much worse. Only a couple hundred yards beyond the officers, we came upon a white matatu (public transport vehicle) that was stopped in the middle of the road. I thought maybe it was dropping somebody off, but Shiv and Collins both immediately knew something was amiss.
For me, everything unfolded as if it was a cartoon - seriously. I really didn’t process what was happening as dangerous. It just seemed odd and sort of like a Jackie Chan-style scripted bad guy chase. My eyes fixated on the wildly waving panga (machete) guy and I just sat in the back seat taking in disconnected details. I noticed hoodies but didn’t realize their faces were covered. What gave me clarity was hearing our friends’ instructions, “Just drive.” Get out of the situation, as fast as possible.
Bryant’s window was down, so he flew into reverse to buy time to roll it up. When he threw the car into first gear his window was only partially up. He and the car were unscathed by the panga dude. We don’t know what the thump sound was from. The bandits chased after us when we passed them, but by then we believe the matatu had alerted the police and you can hear in the video as Collins told us that the police were coming. Then we heard the rifle shot and continued high-tailing it out of there.
What amazed me in all of this was our time debriefing with Shiv and Collins.
First of all, where we were, was not a typical place for bandits to be – so close to heavily traveled roads and near farms and houses. The guys knew the matatu stopping in that location meant something was strange – Bryant and I just thought it was perhaps disabled or dropping off passengers.
Secondly, Shiv and Collins both assessed immediately that these bandits had just held up the matatu and had probably demanded money and phones from the driver and all the passengers. On reviewing the clip, you can see that the guy in the middle is carrying a green shopping bag that most likely has loot in it, and that the guy on the far left was putting his backpack back on after hitting up the vehicle.
Third, Collins noticed the odd movement of the guy in the backpack, and saw him pull a gun from the back of his waistband. I was so focused on the wild guy on the right that I had totally disregarded the two on my side of the vehicle. (Yes, our doors were locked and my window was only cracked two inches, and no, I am not Jason Bourne.)
Fourth, it was extremely providential that we did not pick up the police officers or even allow them to stand on our side rails as we went up that road. They would have immediately opened fire on the bandits, and with at least one opposing handgun in that scenario, a matatu full of passengers, and our vehicle in the mix, the outcome could have been terrible. Thank you, Jesus.
Finally, as I watched the video again, I saw that the matatu driver tried to warn us with a flash of his headlights. Collins also saw a passenger try to signal us from the window. None of us saw the headlights in real time.
The primary thought I had after all of this was how grateful I was for the learning opportunity. I am thinking through my response time, remembering that I didn’t look to see if Bryant had been hit – in fact, realizing that I only looked straight ahead and used only my auditory senses to know our situation. I am so grateful Shiv and Collins were with us, giving us cues, and that my hubby’s fast reflexes, boss driving skills, and tough vehicle all did their part so well. My hope is that if I am ever in another situation like this, that my experience will lead me to assess and engage quickly, mentally and physically if needed, and to coach well, as our friends did.
I thank God for another day, and that all of us got out of the situation safely. Collins and Shiv are both dads, and our girls were safe at home when this happened. I know each of us gave longer hugs when we got home, and we all feel a whole lot more grateful for the Lord’s protection over us.
Be well. Be aware. Be grateful."


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