COLUMBUS, Ohio --A Somali-born Ohio State University student plowed his car into a group of pedestrians on campus and then got out 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.
OSU Active Shooter Situation
Eleven people were hurt, one critically.
The attacker was identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan. He was born in Somalia and was a legal permanent U.S. resident, 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.
The details emerged after a morning of confusion and conflicting reports, created in part by a series of tweets from the university warning that there was an "active shooter" on campus and that students should "run, hide, fight." The warning was apparently prompted by what turned out to be police gunfire.
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, before getting the all-clear an hour and a half later.
Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said that the assailant deliberately drove his small gray car over a curb outside an engineering classroom building and then began knifing people.
A campus 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.
Angshuman Kapil, a graduate student, was outside Watts Hall 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.
Most of the injured were hurt by the car, and at least two were stabbed, officials said. One had a fractured skull.
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."
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that while the bloodshed is still under investigation, it "bears all of the hallmarks of a terror attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized."
"Here in the United States, our most immediate threat still comes from lone attackers that are not only capable of unleashing great harm, but are also extremely difficult, and in some cases, virtually impossible to identify or interdict," he 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."
ABC News reports that authorities are investigating a Facebook post in order to determine if it is connected to Artan. The post mentions radical cleric Anwar Awlaki and said, among other things, "I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sister being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE. ...I can't take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries... [if] you want us Muslims to stop carrying lone wolf attacks."
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 "lone-wolf" attacks in their home countries with whatever weapons are available to them.
The ABC7 I-Team reported in October that ISIS was urging followers to stage knife attacks in public places. The new ISIS jihadist publication "Rumiyah" began recommending and instructing vehicle attacks on crowds 10 days ago.
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.
Surveillance photos showed Artan in the car by himself just before the attack, but investigators were looking into whether anyone else was involved, the campus police chief said.
The bloodshed came as students were returning to classes following the Thanksgiving 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 during the emergency.
"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.
Classes were canceled for the rest of the day.
The officer who gunned the attacker down was identified as 28-year-old Alan Horujko, a nearly two-year member of the force.
The initial tweet from the university's emergency management department went out around 10 a.m. and said: "Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College."
Ohio State President Michael Drake said the active-shooter warning was issued after shots were heard on 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, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.
PARENTS SHAKEN, STUDENTS FROM ILLINOIS CHECK IN
Mary Greenberg was alerted to the attack Monday morning by a text message from her son, Nick, who is a freshman at OSU. She was at home in Naperville at the time.
"He sent me the Buckeye alert that said there was an emergency situation, more information coming soon. And then it said 'active shooter on campus,' and then he texted and said, 'Someone got shot right where I was. Cops are everywhere. I'm in my dorm,'" Greenberg said.
The texts, now including the whole family, continued for several hours as the situation unfolded.
"He doesn't have access to the new sin his rooms so, I don't know, we were sort of keeping him up to date and he was sort of looking out the window. He's right there, very close to where it all happened," she said.
A few miles away from Naperville, in Woodridge, Bobbi Diedrick first saw the news on Facebook and thought immediately of Mike Maduko, a junior at OSU. Diedrick is Maduko's guardian.
"I wasn't sure where he was," she said.
Maduko was across campus, nowhere near the attack. He spoke with ABC 7 Eyewitness News while the campus was still on lockdown, the attacker's fate not yet known.
"It's pretty scary, I'm not even going to lie. I'm not being affected by it right now 'cuz I'm not near what's going on, but knowing that the suspect is still out on the loose makes it all that bit more on edge," he said.
Diedrick was able to calm down once she was able to hear Maduko's voice over the phone, but she still worries for him and his friends.
"We've got to get together with him because this is going to hang with them for a while. So you do have to wrap your arms around the kids who were anywhere near this," Diedrick said.
No one ABC 7 Eyewitness News spoke with locally had children who were victims of the attack, but they said they expect the experience will stay with all OSU students for a long time.
OSU officials had prepared for this grim reality.
"Every year, at least, we do an extensive tabletop exercise, senior staff, and we orient students what to do in case there's an awful circumstance like this," said OSU president Michael V. Drake.
WLS-TV contributed to this report.