After the attacker, identified by authorities as first-year student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, plowed his vehicle into the crowd, officials said he got out of the vehicle and began attacking people with a butcher knife before he was shot and killed by a campus police officer.
Two law enforcement sources told Fox News that Artan came into the United States as a Somali refugee, and was granted status as a legal permanent resident.
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.”
The motive behind the attack is still unclear, according to law enforcement sources, but investigators are not ruling out anything at this point. Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said authorities were looking into whether it was a terrorist attack.
Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said the attacker purposely drove over a curb and into pedestrians.
“This was done on purpose,” he said.
Monica Moll, the school’s public safety director, told reporters the attack took place in front of Watts Hall, the location of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, around 9:52 a.m.
A nearby campus officer identified by Moll as Alan Horujko engaged the suspect, who was attacking people with a butcher knife, and shot and killed him within minutes.
“The threat ended when the officer shot the suspect,” she told reporters. Moll said that “injuries were minimized,” due to the rapid reaction of campus police.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude,” to Horujko, she told reporters.
Ohio State University said in a statement the injuries in the attack included stab wounds, and being struck by a vehicle.
Jerry Kovacich, a third-year in welding engineering, told the school’s newspaper, The Lantern, that he witnessed a man in a car try to drive into a crowd of people after a fire alarm went off. After the car crashed, Kovacich told the newspaper he witnessed the man then attack bystanders with a knife.
“I didn’t see anything with the shooter, what happened was it was outside of MacQuigg Lab,” Kovacich told The Lantern. “The guy ended up just coming and hopping the curb with his car and trying to mow down a couple people. He lost control, and I think he ended up hitting three people, and then people were around the car. Somebody asked him if he was OK and the guy just hopped out of the car with a butcher knife and starting chasing people around.”
Numerous police vehicles and ambulances converged on campus, and authorities blocked off roads. Students barricaded themselves inside offices and classrooms, piling chairs and desks in front of doors. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day.
The school initially sent out a campuswide alert at 9:56 a.m. local time which read, “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”
Abdul Artan, 18, was shot and killed by a university police officer shortly after he began his attack.
One law enforcement source described the Facebook post, written earlier Monday, as a “declaration” against unfair treatment of Muslims. Fox is told that authorities believe the post was made by the same Abdul Artan behind today’s attack at OSU, but have not yet confirmed it.
ABC News reported that the post read, in part, “I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE. … I can’t take it anymore.”
Law enforcement sources told Fox News that the FBI is combing through Artan’s digital history and devices to see if he had contact with any suspected terrorists and for any traces of terrorist propaganda.
One source told Fox News that Artan’s use of a car in the attack recalls a recent article in ISIS’s propaganda magazine Rumiyah, which included a blanket call to followers to mirror July’s mass casualty attack in Nice, France.
Like the Nice attack, which targeted the Mediterranean city’s Bastille Day celebrations, the article suggested followers use easily obtainable objects – like trucks – to cause large-scale injury and destruction.
In September, a 20-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. In the past few years, London and other cities around the globe have also seen knife attacks blamed on extremists.
That Rumiyah article led to a Department of Homeland Security bulletin warning of possible vehicle attacks that was sent nationwide ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.