Ohio State University shooting: Attacker purposely drove on curb, stabbed people
An Ohio State University student drove a speeding car into a crowd outside a classroom building at the US university Monday morning, then got out and slashed at people with a large knife, sending 11 people to the hospital in what authorities said was a planned assault.
University public safety officials identified the student as Abdul Razak Ali Artan. Officials said they had no information on a possible motive and said that campus video cameras showed Artan was alone in the car.
Police quickly responded to the chaotic scene Monday, and within a minute, a university police officer shot and killed the suspect. But it was hours before people understood the details of what had happened on the flagship state campus, as terrified witnesses described a crash, gunfire, stabbings and screaming students sprinting to find a hiding place.
It was yet another sign that universities, once thought of as peaceful havens, are vulnerable to sudden, violent attacks.
Police said they believe Artan is 20 years old, and in an interview with the Lantern student newspaper in August he said that he was a junior in logistics management. He said that he had transferred from Columbus State Community College, where he is listed as having graduated cum laude with an associate of arts degree.
In the interview with the Lantern, Artan described his Muslim prayers and said that Ohio State was so big that he didn't even know where to pray.
"I wanted to pray in the open, but I was kind of scared with everything going in the media," he said. "I'm a Muslim, it's not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don't know what they're going to think, what's going to happen. . . . I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed."
Craig Stone, chief of the Ohio State University police said Monday afternoon that it wasn't clear what motivated the attack but he said it was clear that "this was done on purpose" and that authorities couldn't rule out the possibility of terrorism. The Islamic State and al-Qaida have encouraged followers to carry out knife attacks, and the Islamic State also has urged its supporters to use cars as weapons. In July, a man the militant group called a "soldier" killed dozens with a truck attack in France.
Authorities said Monday afternoon that 11 people went to area hospitals Monday, one in critical condition.
Angshuman Kapil, a 25-year-old student, was waiting outside Ohio State's Watts Hall with 50 or 60 other people who had left the building because of a fire alarm. "A car suddenly appeared driving at a high speed," he said. It hit three or four people and one victim was flipped over the car. The car also struck a concrete barrier. He and others ran inside the building. "My body was shaking," he said.
Police said Artan drove a car over a curb shortly before 10 a.m. hitting the group of pedestrians before swinging a knife at people nearby. Police then shot him.
"Commands were not followed, and the officer did what he had to do to stop the threat," Stone said.
Michael V. Drake, the university's president, said during a news briefing Monday afternoon that the university prepares for "situations like this but always hope never to have one." He said he was grateful it was neutralised rapidly. "This is obviously a tragic situation."
Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day Monday but school will be open Tuesday.
"It's emotionally draining and quite frightening," Drake said. "This is a good day to step back from classes, get our footing and open again tomorrow."
President-elect Trump posted on Facebook that he was "watching the news unfold" in Columbus, adding: "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the students and administration."
Authorities first received a report of a car hitting pedestrians on the campus at 9:52 a.m., according to Monica Mall, the school's director of public safety. One minute later, a university police officer responding engaged and killed the suspected attacker, and he called over the radio that shots were fired.
The university sent out its first "Buckeye Alert" warning students about an "active shooter on campus" at 9:56 a.m., and students and faculty alike were told to shelter in place for more than an hour. The school also urged people to "Run Hide Fight," citing a training program for the campus community that is aimed at preparing for potential attacks.
Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.— OSU Emergency Mngmnt (@OSU_EMFP) November 28, 2016
Four of those injured Monday had cuts or stab wounds, and four were injured after being hit by the car, said Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer of the university's Wexner Medical Center, which is treating some of those who were injured. Injuries to a ninth person were still being assessed, Thomas said at a news conference, because she had hidden in place after the attack and went to the hospital on Monday afternoon. Two others went to the hospital later in the day.
At least two of the people injured in the attack underwent surgery on Monday, Thomas said.
Jacobs said there was no indication the attacker used a gun, but she said investigators still have to search Artan's car.
Witnesses on campus said a fire alarm went off in Watts Hall, which houses the Department of Materials and Science Engineering, on Monday morning shortly before a car drove toward a group of people outside.
Stone, the campus police chief, said the fire department responded to a report of a gas leak at Watts Hall on Monday morning and that authorities are investigating whether that was related to the attack. Witnesses also said a man emerged from the vehicle wielding a knife and slashing at people nearby. Some then heard gunshots, though the shots might have been fired by police during their pursuit and encounter with the suspect.
Logan Chapman, a senior at Ohio State, was in a thermodynamics lecture at Watts Hall when a fire alarm went off and everyone went outside.
"We were waiting for the firetrucks to go. As soon as the firet engines started to pull away, a white Honda Civic came flying into the crowd," Chapman said. "It probably hit three or four people. We thought it was an accident at first. Once the car had stopped, everyone was making sure the driver was okay. But he got out of the car and immediately started slashing people closest to the car with a knife.
"He got out of the car and started slashing everyone nearby," Chapman said. "After that, I ran. Once I recognised he was attacking people with a knife I got out of there as fast as I could. The guy next to me, his hand got cut."
Martin Schneider, of Pittsburgh, was outside Watts Hall when he saw a car drive through the crowd. After the car hit several people, he said, the driver of the car came out waving a kitchen knife. He said the man was about 5 foot 10 with dark skin wearing a black hoodie.
"I saw him swing at people and I was definitely scared," he said.
Schneider then fled into the building with several other students and ran into a room in the basement with a professor whose ankle was bleeding from the attack.
Student Yoon Lee was in Watts Hall waiting to go into a class when he heard what sounded like gunshots, a few minutes after a fire alarm had sounded in the building, and looked out the window. He saw someone he believed to be the suspect on the ground, a person lying immobile and face-down on the cement.
Lee said police were nearby and there were three or four individuals on a bench who appeared to be victims.
"I was really shocked," he said. "I guess I was lucky."
VIDEO: Students describe attack at Ohio State University; police say suspect stabbed people with butcher knife. https://t.co/e7Q5lnONkV— The Associated Press (@AP) November 28, 2016
Sean Cody, a student from Akron, Ohio, said he was walking to class near Watts Hall when he heard what sounded like an explosion and saw a cloud of dust and about 30 people "booking it," sprinting away from Watts Hall. He wondered if it was a bomb, then he heard what sounded like three gunshots near Watts Hall.
Haylee Gardiner, a sophomore, said she was walking to meet a professor when she heard people screaming, and saw about 50 people running from the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry building. Then she heard what sounded like five or six gunshots -- a familiar sound to her from her small hometown in northeast Ohio where hunting is common -- and sprinted with people to a nearby dorm. They went to the top floor and tried to figure out what was happening. "It was absolutely terrifying," she said.
Cody Sarisky, a senior from Columbus, finished an early-morning work shift at 9:30 and was walking home from when he saw a group of people running toward him. "I was totally confused," he said. He saw what looked like a person darting behind a building, saw police pointing a gun. "Then I heard three quick gunshots."
A professor reached by telephone said he was told that a colleague in the materials science and engineering department had been stabbed at Watts Hall. The professor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because information about the situation remained fluid, said there was no immediate word on the stabbing victim's condition.
Shortly after 11 am, university officials lifted the shelter-in-place directive and canceled all classes on the Columbus campus Monday. In the announcement, university officials said that "law enforcement will continue to have a visible presence on campus." The campus will remain open, but 14 buildings were closed until further notice.
University police said at about 11:30 a.m. that the scene was "now secure," but said they would keep an area on the campus closed.
The FBI is on scene assisting local police in Columbus. Todd Lindgren, a spokesman for the FBI Field Office in Cincinnati, said Ohio State University police are the lead agency. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Monday it was sending agents from its Columbus division to the Ohio State campus. Columbus police officers and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office also said they were assisting university police.
Ohio State, the state's public flagship university, has about 58,600 students on its main campus in the capital city of Columbus, just north of the downtown business area.
North Campus refers to the north side of campus, where the business school and football stadium are located.
Police in Upper Arlington, a Columbus suburb right near the Ohio State campus, said that schools there were being placed on a precautionary lockdown due to the reported active shooter incident.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich sent a message of concern on social media. "Ohio's thoughts and prayers go out to the Ohio State community. Be safe, listen to first responders," Kasich wrote.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement Monday: "As the situation at the Ohio State University unfolds, we lift up the victims and the first responders in our thoughts and prayers. We ask for students and university employees to continue follow instructions of Ohio State authorities."
- Washington Post