USA TODAY - An Ohio State University student has been identified as the suspect behind the gruesome attack Monday on the school's campus.
The alleged attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was killed by police, but not before driving a car into a group of people and then attacking victims with a butcher's knife, said Monica Moll, public safety director at Ohio State. FBI agents had joined local police in investigating the incident. Eleven people were injured; all are expected to survive
Artan was born in Somalia and living in the United States as a legal permanent resident. Investigators discovered a message he posted on a Facebook page 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 was enrolled at Columbus State Community College from the fall semester of 2014 through the summer semester of 2016, according to college spokesman Allen Kraus.
He graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in the spring of 2016 and then took a non-credit class for summer 2016. He had no record of behavioral or disciplinary issues during his time at Columbus State and graduated with honors, Kraus added.
Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said that Artan was alone during the attack and that police were still trying to determine the motive of the attack. Ohio State officials said the quick action of Officer Alan Horujko, who fatally shot Artan, prevented more people from being injured in the incident.
"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 in this act."
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.
Law enforcement officials were expected to search Artan’s home to look for clues for what may have motivated the attack.
The Ohio State incident follows a knife attack in September in which 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 that a member of Artan's family told him the suspect's mother and siblings had been interviewed by law enforcement authorities after the incident. Columbus has the second-biggest Somali population in the U.S. with about 50,000 immigrants from the east African nation.
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."
Darla Neises, 36, of Columbus, worked with Artan at a nearby retail. One local business owner said they worked at a Home Depot big box store.
“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 on the Ohio State campus. She compared it to getting hit in the face with a frying pan.
The street where Artan lived was clogged Monday night by media, yellow police tape and vehicles from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department. Officials were waiting on a warrant to search the home. A bomb squad truck sat in front of the townhouse.
“He was very sweet and kind, he used to write me bravos all the time, he’d get a lot of them. He was employee of the month,” Neises said. She called him Artan. “Just Artan,” she said.
At the end of Nationwide Boulevard, Jack 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 civil war-torn Somalia.
The incident has the large Somali refugee community in Columbus on edge. Already, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric are sounding.
Columbus’ Somali population, estimated in excess of 50,000, is the second largest in the United States, behind only Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Contributing: Jessie Balmert and Mark Curnutte of the Cincinnati Enquirer
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