An Ohio State University student who may have been upset about treatment of Muslims in the world has been identified as the suspect behind the gruesome attack Monday (Nov. 28) on the school’s campus.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan was killed by police, but not before driving a car into a group of people and then stabbing victims with a butcher’s knife, said Monica Moll, public safety director at Ohio State. Eleven people were injured; all are expected to survive.
FBI agents have joined local police in investigating the case. Authorities discovered a message that Artan posted on Facebook before the attack in which he expressed anger about the treatment of Muslims around the world, according to reports from multiple news outlets, citing unidentified law enforcement officials.
Artan, who was born in Somalia and living in the United States as a legal permanent resident, was enrolled at Columbus State Community College from fall 2014 through the summer semester of 2016, according to college spokesman Allen Kraus.
Artan graduated from the community college with an associate degree in spring 2016 and then took a noncredit class for summer 2016. He had no record of behavioral or disciplinary issues during his time at Columbus State and graduated with honors, Kraus said.
Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said Artan was alone during the attack and police were still trying to determine the motive. Ohio State officials said the quick action of Officer Alan Horujko, who fatally shot Artan, prevented more people from being injured.
“We can prove to you that the suspect was by himself in the vehicle and committed this act by himself today,” Stone said. “It’s an ongoing investigation to determine motive and if anybody else was involved.”
Columbus Police Chief Chief Kim Jacobs, whose officers also responded to the attack, said terrorism had not been ruled out. “That’s why our federal partners are here and helping,” she said.
The attack comes as the terror group the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, through its online recruiters has called on U.S.-based sympathizers to carry out attacks on American soil if they cannot find a way to join the fight in Syria and Iraq.
In May, FBI Director James Comey said ISIL was having a harder time recruiting American sympathizers to travel to Syria, but the agency was seeing more incidents in which potential suspects were being recruited to plot strikes in the U.S.
In September, a 22-year-old Somali-American stabbed 10 people at a St. Cloud, Minn., shopping mall before being shot to death by an off-duty officer. Authorities said he asked some of his victims if they were Muslim. ISIL later claimed credit for the attack, and Comey said the St. Cloud assailant was likely acting as a “soldier” for the terror group.
Omar Hassan, president of the Columbus-based Somali Community Association of Ohio, said a member of Artan’s family told him the suspect’s mother and siblings have been interviewed by law enforcement since the attack. Authorities were expected to search Artan’s home for additional clues.
Hassan said the incident would reverberate in the Somali diaspora in the U.S., where concerns about anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant are already heightened.
“The timing is not good,” Hassan said. “We are black. We are Muslim. We are Somali. We are all the negative stigmas.”
Columbus has the second-biggest Somali population in the U.S., with about 50,000 immigrants from the east African nation. Only Minneapolis has more.
Before moving to Ohio, Artan had spent nearly a month in Dallas with his mother and six siblings after arriving in the U.S. more than two years ago. There, the family had received aid and shelter from Catholic Charities, according to NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.
Darla Neises, 36, of Columbus, worked with Artan at a nearby retail store. One local business owner said they worked at a Home Depot.
“He was a sweet kid,” Neises said as she got into her car in a steady rain Monday night. She said she is shocked by the news that he carried out the attack. She compared it to getting hit in the face with a frying pan.
“He used to write me bravos all the time. He’d get a lot of them. He was employee of the month,” Neises said.
Another Columbus man, Jack Ouham, also recalled Artan. Ouham owns a convenience store called Hometown Market. “He used to stop in every day,” said Ouham, a Moroccan immigrant. “He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. He was very respectful, very educated.”
Ouham said Artan was the third-oldest of the seven children in the family. He said Artan had said that he was born in Kenya, possibly in a refugee camp after the family fled wartorn Somalia.
(Aamer Madhani writes for USA Today. Contributing: Jessie Balmert and Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer)