COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A man plowed his car into a group of pedestrians at Ohio State University and began stabbing people with a butcher knife Monday before he was shot to death by a police officer. Police said they are investigating whether it was a terrorist attack.
11 people were hurt, one critically.
The attacker was identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali-born legal permanent resident of the U.S., according to a U.S. official wasn’t authorized to discuss details of the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The FBI and other agencies joined the investigation.
Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said that the assailant deliberately drove over a curb outside a classroom building, got out of the vehicle and began to cut people in a crowd with a butcher knife.
OSU police officer Alan Horujko, who was nearby because of a gas leak, arrived on the scene within a minute of the attack beginning and shot and killed the driver.
“A police officer was on the scene within a minute and killed the assailant. He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” Stone said.
Officer Horujko is a Cincinnati native who joined the OSU Police Department in January of 2015.
He graduated from The Ohio State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in security and intelligence. During his time as a student, he served as a Student Safety Service officer between 2010 and 2012.
All victims have non life-threatening injuries
Columbus fire officials tell NBC4 11 people were transported to local hospitals, and all 11 victims have non-life-threatening injuries. Six patients were sent to OSU Wexner Medical Center, three went to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and two were taken to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
At least two people were being treated for stab wounds, four were injured by the car and two others were being treated for cuts, university officials said.
Campus remains open during the continued investigation, although classes have been canceled for the remainder of the day.
The details emerged after a morning of confusion and conflicting reports that began with the university issuing a series of tweets at about 9:56am warning students that there was an “active shooter” on campus near the engineering building and that they should “run, hide, fight.” The warning was apparently prompted by what turned out to be police gunfire.
The shelter-in-place warning was lifted just after 11:30am and the campus declared secure after police concluded there was no second attacker, as rumored.
The Ohio State University issued the following statement just after 12:20pm:
The university will continue to share information through Buckeye Alert and emergency.osu.edu. Our top priority remains the safety and security of our campus community. Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and their families.
All buildings except for Student Academic Services were reopened to the public by 3pm so students and staff could retrieve personal items. 19th avenue remains closed, and those needing to access buildings are told to use 18th or Woodruff.
911 calls reveal chaos at scene
Officials said the attack was clearly deliberate and may have been planned in advance.
“This was done on purpose,” Stone said.
Callers described the suspect driving over the curb in the area of 19th Avenue and College Road, hitting several people.
“I think this is some type of terrorist attack,” said one caller. “Because the guy ran a car through a crowd of students. The guy did it purposefully.”
“Watts Hall, on OSU’s campus, somebody just drove through a crowd full of people. He’s now firing a gun, but I don’t know who’s firing the gun. It looks like a campus police officer,” said another caller.
“I saw the car ran into him, then plowed into a group of students stranding outside,” said Jeremy Weiss.
“I’m at Ohio State, right outside of Watts Hall and there was a guy crashed his car into a bunch of people and ran out with a knife chasing down people,” said another caller.
FBI assisting in the investigation
Heavily armed police, ambulances and SWAT vehicles could be seen on the Columbus campus. The FBI, Ohio State police and Columbus police were assisting university police.
Asked at a news conference whether authorities were considering the possibility it was a terrorist act, Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said: “I think we have to consider that it is.”
In recent months, federal law enforcement officials have raised concerns about online extremist propaganda that encourages knife and car attacks, which are easier to pull off than bombings.
The Islamic State group has urged sympathizers online to carry out attacks in their home countries with whatever weapons are available to them.
In September, a 20-year-old Somali-American stabbed 10 people at a St. Cloud, Minnesota, shopping mall before being shot to death by an off-duty officer. Authorities said he asked some of his victims if they were Muslim. In the past few years, London and other cities abroad have also seen knife attacks blamed on extremists.
OSU students describe what they saw and heard
The attack came as students were returning to classes following the Thanksgiving holiday break and Ohio State’s football victory over rival Michigan that brought more than 100,000 fans to campus on Saturday.
“I was going to class and just all the people were running and I was really nervous I was like oh crap,” said 5th year senior Scott Bedle. “I saw people running cop sirens everything.”
“I heard like multiple gunshots, and I wasn’t sure if it was real or not but as soon as I looked out the window and I saw the same,” said senior Yoon Lee.
Rachel LeMaster, who works in the engineering college, said a fire alarm sounded on campus.
“There were several moments of chaos,” she said. “We barricaded ourselves like we’re supposed to since it was right outside our door and just hunkered down.”
LeMaster said she and others were eventually led outside the building and she saw a body on the ground.
Other students barricaded themselves in classrooms.
“I’m safe in a barricaded room,” Harrison Roth tweeted. “If you’re on campus, get in a room and stay safe.”
Officials release statements
President-Elect Donald Trump issued a statement following the attack:
Watching the news unfold at Ohio State University. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the students and administration.
Excellent job by the Ohio State University Emergency Management Team (OSU_EMFP) in immediately notifying students & faculty via social media with the message: “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”
THANK YOU to all FIRST RESPONDERS who reacted immediately and eliminated the threat on campus.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther also released the following statement:
“As we continue to work to understand today’s tragic events, we must give thanks to our first responders and emergency medical professionals for doing everything in their power to assure the best possible outcome under trying circumstances. Their heroic actions saved lives today, and for that we are most grateful.
I have personally met with several of the victims this afternoon, and I am pleased to report that their spirits are good and they are receiving the best of care. The City stands with The Ohio State University in supporting all those who were impacted by today’s traumatic events, and will work with Ohio State to help the university community heal physically and emotionally in the days and weeks to come.
It is important in these difficult times that we come together as a community to support one another, and to resist the temptation to lash out in anger, or to let the actions of one person define an entire community. As an open, diverse and inclusive city, it is especially important to stand with our entire community and work toward productive strategies to stop senseless acts of violence everywhere.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich weighed in on Twitter saying, “Ohio’s thoughts and prayers go out to the Ohio State community. Be safe, listen to first responders.” He later released a longer statement reading:
My thoughts are with the victims of this attack right now and I pray for their safety and recovery. I am grateful for the professional, coordinated response from first responders whose efforts helped effectively contain this incident before further harm could be done. I have been staying in contact with Ohio first responders since the incident began and have spoken with Ohio State’s President Dr. Michael Drake to pledge whatever additional help the university needs.”
Others to issue statements included Cleveland Cavaliers player Lebron James, who was on campus this past Saturday, and the University of Michigan Athletics department.
When Ohio State issued the warning message Monday, it said there was an active shooter. It emerged later that the assailant had plowed his car into a group of pedestrians and began stabbing people, then was shot and killed by an officer.
Randy Burba, the chief of public safety at Chapman University in California, said he endorses the “run, hide, fight” message in any situation involving an armed assailant, whether it’s a gun, knife or another weapon.
“That basically is an emergency alert to let the campus know there is potential danger and if you can run, run, and if you can hide, hide,” said Burba, who is also president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
Monica Moll, Ohio State’s director of public safety, said at a news conference that officials there included “run, hide, fight” in the alert message to remind people of their training on how to deal with an attack.
Multiple vigils planned for OSU victims
Several campus area faith communities are planning services tonight to pray for the victims of the attack on Ohio State.
A prayer vigil is planned at Jacob’s Porch located at 45 East 13th Avenue at 4pm.
St. Thomas More Newman Center is inviting the community to light a candle for the OSU community during a 5:30pm mass. The address is 64 W. Lane Avenue.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and University Center will hold a prayer vigil at 7pm. The church is located at 30 W. Woodruff Ave.
Ohio State University’s main campus in Columbus is one of the largest in the United States. The university has more than 65,000 students enrolled across the state. Watts Hall is the Material Science and Engineering building for campus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.