Terrorism suspected in car-and-knife attack at Ohio State

Students leave buildings surrounding Watts Hall as police respond to reports of a shooting on campus at Ohio State University, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Students leave buildings surrounding Watts Hall as police respond to reports of a shooting on campus at Ohio State University, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP/WAVY/NBC) — 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.

This August 2016 image provided by TheLantern.com shows Abdul Razak Ali Artan in Columbus, Ohio. Authorities identified Abdul Razak Ali Artan as the Somali-born Ohio State University student who plowed his car into a group of pedestrians on campus and then got out and began stabbing people with a knife Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, before he was shot to death by an officer. (Kevin Stankiewicz/TheLantern.com via AP)
This August 2016 image provided by TheLantern.com shows Abdul Razak Ali Artan in Columbus, Ohio. (Kevin Stankiewicz/TheLantern.com via AP)

Eleven people were hurt, including one critically.

The attacker was identified as Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan. He was born in Somalia and was a legal permanent resident of the U.S., according to a U.S. official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The FBI joined the investigation.

Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said that the assailant deliberately drove over a curb outside a classroom building and then got out and began attacking people with the knife. An officer who happened to be nearby because of a gas leak arrived on the scene and shot the driver in less than a minute, Stone said.

The officer was identified as 28-year-old Alan Horujko, a nearly two-year member of the force.

PHOTOS: Attack at Ohio State

The details emerged after a morning of confusion and conflicting reports that began with the university issuing a series of tweets warning that there was an “active shooter” on campus near the engineering building and that students should “run, hide, fight.” The warning was apparently prompted by what turned out to be police gunfire.

Ohio State President Michael Drake said the active-shooter warning was issued after shots were heard on campus.

Ohio State Emergency Management sent the first alert at 9:56 a.m.

That first alert said, “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”

Watts Hall is the Material Science and Engineering building for campus.

“Run, hide, fight” is standard protocol for active shooter situations. It means: Run, evacuate if possible; hide, get silently out of view; or fight, as a last resort, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.

The shelter-in-place warning at Ohio State was lifted at 11:30 a.m. and the campus was declared secure after about an hour and a half after police concluded there was no second attacker, as rumored. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day.

Numerous police vehicles and ambulances converged on the 60,000-student campus, and authorities blocked off roads. Students barricaded themselves inside offices and classrooms, piling chairs and desks in front of doors.

Witnesses describe what they saw and heard after OSU attack

Angshuman Kapil, a graduate student, was outside the building when the car barreled onto the sidewalk.

“It just hit everybody who was in front,” he said. “After that everybody was shouting, ‘Run! Run! Run!'”

Student Martin Schneider said he heard the car’s engine revving.

“I thought it was an accident initially until I saw the guy come out with a knife,” Schneider said, adding that the man didn’t say anything when he got out.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Artan was not known to the FBI prior to Monday’s attack, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Neighbors said Artan was always polite and attended daily prayer services at a mosque.

Leaders of Muslim organizations and mosques in the Columbus area condemned Monday’s attack while cautioning people against jumping to conclusions or blaming a religion or an ethnicity.

“It is particularly heartbreaking to see this random act of violence come to this community I hold so dear,” said Ohio State graduate Nicole Ghazi, who is active in Islamic organizations.

Surveillance photos showed Artan in the car by himself just before the attack, but investigators are looking into whether anyone else was involved, police said.

Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, ran an interview in August with a student named Abdul Razak Artan, who identified himself as a Muslim and a third-year logistics management student who had just transferred from Columbus State in the fall.

He said he was looking for a place to pray openly and worried about how he would be received.

“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.”

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.

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.”

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center issued this statement on its Facebook page Monday morning:

Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of our patients, visitors and employees. At this time, we are taking the appropriate steps, including collaborating with local authorities, to understand what has occurred and to manage the situation. At this time, we are treating four victims at OSU Wexner Medical Center, none with life-threatening injuries. As we gather information, we’ll post updates on our social media and website. For patients at OSU Wexner Medical Center, normal operations and appointments will continue as scheduled.”