COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University student who carried out a knife attack on campus Monday said in a Facebook post he was “sick and tired” of seeing fellow Muslims “killed and tortured,” according to federal law enforcement officials.
Investigators are examining Abdul Razak Ali Artan’s Facebook page to determine whether the attack was terrorism, though law enforcement officials said it will take time to ascertain motive.
In a Facebook post shortly before the Monday morning rampage, the Somali immigrant urged America “to stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah,” a term for Muslim people at large.
“By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday.”
Artan rammed his car into a group of people on the Columbus campus before exiting the car and charged at others with a knife. Eleven people were hospitalized as a result of the attack.
Ohio State Police Officer Alan Horujko shot Artan after he failed to obey orders to stop.
In a news conference Monday, Ohio State President Dr. Michael V. Drake cautioned against jumping to conclusions when asked if the incident was terror-related or had anything to do with Ohio’s Somali community, the second-largest in the country.
“We all know when things like this happen that there’s a tendency sometimes for people to put people together and create other kinds of theories. We don’t know anything that would link this to any community. We certainly don’t have any evidence that would say that’s the case,” Drake said.
“What we want to do is really unify together and support each other; do our best to support those who were injured in their recovery, and then allow the investigation to take place.”
What we know about the attacker
Artan was profiled in the school’s student-run newspaper’s “Humans of Ohio State” series in August. He had just transferred from Columbus State and said he was struggling to find a place to pray in peace on the large campus.
“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media. 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.
A community member who spoke to the attacker’s family described them as shocked. The community member described Artan as a good kid. She confirmed Artan had just finished community college before starting this semester at Ohio State.
Artan was a legal permanent resident originally from Somalia, a US official said. He came to the country in 2014 with his family via Pakistan, a federal law enforcement official and a US official told CNN.
Artan left Somalia in 2007 with his family for Pakistan and they were admitted as refugees as part of a minority sect of Somalis, a senior administration official told CNN. Seven members of the family applied for refugee status in the United States and were admitted in 2014. Today, they are all legal permanent residents and green card holders.
Neighbor Stephanie Leper told CNN Artan’s family occupies four units. Law enforcement vehicles arrived at the town homes sometime after 10 a.m. and took people away in “paddy wagons,” she said.
Artan said reports of human rights abuses in Myanmar pushed him to a “boiling point.” The United States, which suspended its last sanctions against the former military dictatorship this year, said it had expressed concerns about the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
“I can’t take it anymore,” he said in the post.
How it happened
Artan’s rampage ended in less than two minutes thanks to Officer Horujko’s quick response, officials said.
“We owe him a debt of gratitude,” said Monica Moll, director of Ohio State public safety. “He did a fabulous job today.”
At 9:52 a.m., he drove over a curb and struck people near Watts Hall.
Horujko called in the car at 9:52 a.m. A few seconds later, he called in to say he had engaged with the suspect. At 9:53 a.m., he radioed in again to say he had shot the suspect.
Student Jacob Bower, 20, said he saw the attacker outside between the Koffolt Laboratories and Watts Hall.
“He pulled a large knife and started chasing people around, trying to attack them,” Bower told CNN, adding that he did not see anyone get stabbed.
“Luckily there were so many people, he couldn’t focus on one target,” he said.
It took Horujko three shots to take Artan down, Bower said.
“He waited ’til everyone was clear, and the stabber clearly wasn’t stopping.”
Throughout the attack, the assailant didn’t yell or say anything, Bower said.
“He was completely silent, which was very creepy. Not even when he was shot,” the student said.
“The cop that subdued the guy with the knife saved so many lives today.”
Investigators used surveillance camera footage to track Artan’s car before he arrived on campus, University Police Chief Craig Stone said. By tracing his movements, investigators were able to conclude he was alone in the vehicle and acted alone.
Gov. John Kasich praised the 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.
‘Run, hide, fight’
Drake and others credited the school’s active shooter training and the campus alert system for helping the community maintain order while the scene was secured. Ohio State’s Columbus campus is one of the largest in the United States, with 59,482 registered students attending classes on the sprawling urban campus.
At 9:55 a.m., the school sent out a campus alert reporting an active shooter incident.
“Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College,” Ohio State Emergency Management tweeted at 9:56 a.m.
While students waited to hear word on the attacker’s movements, some piled chairs against a door to block him from getting in.
“I’m safe in a barricaded room,” Harrison Roth tweeted. “If you’re on campus, get in a room and stay safe.”
In 911 calls to police, several students described the chaotic scene.
“I think this is some type of terrorist attack,” said one caller, according to CNN affiliate WCMH. “Because the guy ran a car through a crowd of students. The guy did it purposefully.”
About 90 minutes after the first call came in, the lockdown was lifted, Drake said.
Students had just returned to class Monday after the Thanksgiving break — and after the OSU football team’s big win Saturday over the school’s biggest rival, the University of Michigan.
Overall, it was “one of those days you’re grateful for good training and great people across the board,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said.