COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An attack on the campus of The Ohio State University that left 11 people injured and a knife-wielding suspect dead is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism, Columbus' police chief said.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a student originally from Somalia, rammed a vehicle over the curb on 19th Avenue in front of Watts Hall and plowed through a group of pedestrians at about 9:52 a.m., according to police.
He then leapt from his car and began swatting at students with a butcher knife, OSU Chief of Police Craig Stone said.
"This was done on purpose," Stone said.
Ohio State Police Officer Alan Horujko, a 2007 graduate of Fairfield High School outside Cincinnati, shot and killed Artan within a minute of his attack.
— OSU Police (@OSUPOLICE) November 28, 2016
Artan was a legal permanent resident of the United States, according to a U.S. official. It was unclear when he came to the country. OSU President Michael Drake said he'd been told Artan was in his first semester at the school.
A car used in the attack was registered to a family member, a federal official told CNN . Stone said surveillance images showed Artan was alone in the car shortly before the attack.
Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs was asked at a news conference Monday afternoon whether authorities were considering the possibility that it was a terror attack.
"I think we have to consider that it is," she said.
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.
Artan's body remained on the pavement as police secured the scene. Eleven victims went to three area hospitals. Five had stab wounds, while the others were injured by the vehicle, according to Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Most victims' injuries were not considered life-threatening. One person was in critical condition, Thomas said.
"It’s just one of those things where you go to class today, and next thing you know, you’re laying the hospital. And so we’re very grateful for everybody being able to make it out of this alive," Jacobs said.
Officers brought two men out of a campus parking garage, but Jacobs said there's no reason to believe they're connected to the attack. There's also no information leading police to believe there may be more suspects, she said.
Asked about a possible backlash to Columbus' sizeable Somali population, officials cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
"We don't know anything that would link this to any community," Drake said. "We certainly don't have any evidence that would say that's the case."
Shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, the school recommended anyone in the vicinity of Watts Hall at 19th Avenue and College Road to shelter in place through it's emergency alert system with the instructions run, hide and fight. OSU Director of Public safety Monica Moll explained these three options are standard protocol as OSU educates students how to handle emergency situations.
Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.
— OSU Emergency Mngmnt (@OSU_EMFP) November 28, 2016
At 11:30 a.m., OSU police officials said the shelter-in-place order had been lifted and the scene was secured. A list of buildings around campus that remained closed for the day is here .
Drake reassured students and parents that the university administration has their backs.
"We’re here for them, and we want to do everything to help them have a full and complete recovery and let them know that we care for them as people as well as patients,” Drake said. “We live in an unstable world unfortunately, and we have to do the best we can to protect ourselves from these sorts of things."
Watch the entire news conference below:
Facebook activated its safety check feature for OSU students so friends and family could ensure their loved ones are safe.
All classes were canceled for the remainder of the day. By Monday evening, the campus was calm, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, and people were regaining confidence.
"This is just an incredible and magnificent place. So when I heard that this morning, of course, I thought about the stab wounds, perhaps the gunfire -- it frankly took a piece out of everyone at our beautiful Ohio State University that it could happen here," he said.
"But we are a tough, resilient community."
OSU student and Fort Mitchell native Madeline Schwarz told WCPO she was about five blocks away and sheltered in place when the incident happened, but that one of her roommates was right near the activity in a building near Watts Hall. Schwarz is the daughter of WCPO reporter Lucy May.
"Everyone’s really frazzled — we immediately called our family members to tell them that’s we’re OK," Schwarz said. "The professors kind of shut down class and they're all moving toward the walls. The lecture halls do not lock in those buildings so everyone’s really on edge still."
Witnesses told Schwarz they suspect somebody pulled a fire alarm so students would head outside of Watts Hall so that another suspect could drive into the crowd, get out of the car, and start shooting or knifing the victims. Stone confirmed a gas leak had been reported at Watts Hall Monday morning, but it is still under investigation whether the alarm and the stabbing incident are connected.
Horujko, the officer who killed Artan, saw the attack unfold because he was at Watts Hall for the reported gas leak.
First-year student Carver Nabb said he was safe in his dormitory, Mendoza House, midway between Watts Hall and the Lane Avenue Garage that SWAT teams surrounded and searched for potential suspects. He told WCPO he'd spend the rest of the day lying low in his dorm room.
"It was a little nerve-racking, just knowing -- because there definitely were people who didn't have phones on them at the time. So it was nerve-racking to reach out to friends on campus and not receive any response and not know if they were OK or not," Nabb said.
Jacobs said she hoped Monday's attack would spur parents to talk with their children about what to do if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.
"Don't gawk, don't stand around saying, 'Oh, I got to get a picture of this.' Get to safety, you know, whether that means running, whether that means locking the door or whatever it might be," she said.
The last time a shooting was reported on the OSU campus was 2015, when a 63-year-old former college security officer shot and killed himself at a college art gallery .
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