Suspect Is Killed in Attack at Ohio State University That Injured 11


A student at Ohio State University intentionally rammed a car into pedestrians on a busy campus sidewalk on Monday morning and then began slashing passers-by with a butcher knife, the authorities said, injuring 11 students and faculty and staff members, and setting off panic at one of the nation’s largest public universities.

A university police officer fatally shot the suspect within about a minute of the attack, but the sprawling campus in Columbus, Ohio, remained on lockdown for about an hour and a half as people ran for cover and barricaded themselves in academic buildings and dorms.

Investigators were looking into whether the attack was an act of terrorism and were seeking information on the student, Abdul Artan, a permanent United States resident from Somalia who was studying logistics management at Ohio State.

The F.B.I. was investigating comments on Facebook indicating that he may have felt Muslims were being persecuted, an investigator said.

Last summer the student newspaper, The Lantern, published an interview with Mr. Artan in which he complained about being afraid to pray in public as a Muslim, because of people’s negative perceptions of the religion.

“I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what media portrays me to be,” he told the newspaper. “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads.”

The attack began at 9:50 a.m. Monday, when “this car suddenly appeared on the sidewalk,” said Angshuman Kapil, a graduate student. “It was in high speed, and it just hit whoever came in front of him.” The car stopped only when it rammed a concrete block, he said.

The driver leapt out, the authorities said, and began attacking people with a knife. A campus police officer, Alan Horujko, 28, shot Mr. Artan after he failed to follow orders to drop his weapon, and officials credited the officer with helping to save lives. All of the wounded were expected to survive, university officials said.

Six people were hit by the car, and five had stab wounds or lacerations, doctors said. They were being treated at three hospitals.

No evidence has emerged that Mr. Artan had any connection or allegiance to radical ideology. Though no terrorist group had claimed responsibility for the attack, the Islamic State was updating its online audiences on the rampage on Monday.

Both the car-ramming and the knife attacks are now established forms of aggression inspired by the Islamic State. An attacker in Nice, France, used a delivery truck to kill dozens of pedestrians in July, and chats between an attacker in Würzburg, Germany, and his Islamic State handler indicate he was initially told to use a car to carry out his assault that same month, before he settled on using an ax because he did not have a driving permit.

The authorities in Ohio said that it was too soon to know what had motivated Mr. Artan, but that it was clear the attack had been deliberate. Mr. Artan’s Columbus home was surrounded by squad cars, crime scene tape and a bomb squad truck on Monday afternoon, and police officials said they were waiting for a search warrant.

“This was done on purpose,” said Chief Craig Stone of the Ohio State University police. “To go over the curb and strike pedestrians and then get out and start striking with the knife — that was on purpose.”

The attack, initially reported as an “active shooter” by the university, stunned students who were returning to class after Thanksgiving break, leading to a 90-minute shelter-in-place warning and an admonition from campus officials to “Run Hide Fight.”

Haylee Gardiner, a sophomore, said she was on her way to a chemistry lab when the attack occurred.

“I saw a bunch of people running, and when they were running, they were screaming and yelling,” said Ms. Gardiner, who scrambled to a residence hall for shelter. “And then all of a sudden, I heard four or five gunshots”.

Sean Cody, 23, from Akron, Ohio, was running late for his philosophy class, and after hearing a loud boom, he sprinted into a building to alert fellow students.

“Then there was a bang, a dust cloud, then shouting and screaming, and people just booking it in every direction,” Mr. Cody said. “Then, 30 seconds, a minute later, there were gunshots.”

During the chaos, students huddled in locked rooms, and some took to Twitter, posting photos from inside barricaded classrooms.

Ohio State administrators released little information about Mr. Artan, and parts of his background remained unclear. He was admitted to the United States in June 2014 as the child of a refugee, federal officials said, and was believed to be in his late teens or early 20s. He graduated cum laude from Columbus State Community College with an associate of arts degree, officials there said. He was on the Columbus State dean’s list in 2015.

Officer Horujko, who joined the university police last year, had also been profiled in The Lantern. An Ohio native and a graduate of the university, he said he had decided to be an officer after working in campus safety as a student.

As Ohio State officials took stock of the attack and made plans for classes to resume on Tuesday, they said they were thankful the injuries were not more severe and were optimistic that students would come together even if investigators discovered a link to terrorism.

“Our campus community is extremely tolerant,” Michael V. Drake, the university president, said in an interview. “The concept of branding a whole community for the act of a few leads to an intolerance that can make the world a more difficult place for all of us.”

The episode was reported near Watts Hall, a building at the heart of the campus that houses materials science and engineering programs. Heavily armed SWAT teams swarmed the campus, and at one point could be seen making their way up a stairwell of a nearby parking garage.

Monday’s violence followed a machete attack in February at a Mediterranean restaurant in Columbus, which also ended with the police killing the suspect. The restaurant’s owner told reporters that he believed he had been targeted because of his Israeli heritage.

The attack on Monday was the latest mass-casualty episode over the last decade on an American college campus. Shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and Oikos University in California, among others, have led colleges nationwide to plan how to respond to an attack. Monday’s instruction to “Run Hide Fight” came from a training program used by Ohio State and other groups for reacting to active shootings.

“We prepare for situations like this,” Dr. Drake said, “but always hope never to have one.”

Muslim leaders in Ohio praised the police for their response and urged the public not to make assumptions about the attacker’s motives.

“We as yet know nothing about the motivation of the attacker, but we do know of his Somali heritage, and that will be enough for some people to falsely link this tragic incident to the faith of Islam and to the Somali and Muslim communities,” said Roula Allouch, national board chairwoman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We must not jump to conclusions. It is important to let the investigators do their jobs.”

Gov. John Kasich also praised the police response, saying it showed “how much practice, how much training, how much expertise, how much coordination” existed among local law enforcement agencies.

“We are a strong, tough, resilient community,” he said.

Mayor Andrew Ginther of Columbus said that Monday was “one of those days you’re grateful for good training and great people across the board,” and urged unity in the days ahead.


Reporting was contributed by Travis Hoewischer, Alan Blinder, Jess Bidgood, Camilla Schick, Michael Huson, Rukmini Callimachi and Julia Preston.



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