Updated: COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ten people were taken to the hospital, one in critical condition, after an attack involving a car and a knife on the Ohio State University campus Monday morning, officials said.
A suspect in the attack has been shot and killed, the university said in a statement.
Ohio State reported an active shooter Monday morning, asking people to shelter in place and avoid part of the campus. According to a university spokesman, victims had injuries including stab wounds and from being struck by a vehicle. Authorities did not say if any of the people injured were shot.
“Facts are still being verified,” the university said in a statement. “Our top priority remains the safety and security of our campus community.”
The Columbus Fire Division said it took 10 people to the hospital after the incident. Nine of those people were in stable condition, according to Rebecca Diehm, a fire division spokeswoman.
Two people familiar with the case said the suspect is believed to have driven toward a group of pedestrians outside of Watts Hall before emerging with a knife. The suspect was then confronted by law enforcement officers and fatally wounded.
Investigators are still working to determine if anyone else was involved in the attack. Local police are still leading the investigation, and a motive was far from clear. The Islamic State and al-Qaida have publicly called for supporters to use vehicles as weapons, as an attacker who killed dozens in Nice over the summer did.
Witnesses on campus said a fire alarm went off in Watts Hall on Monday morning shortly before a vehicle drove toward a group of people outside. Witnesses also said a man emerged from the vehicle wielding a knife and slashing at people nearby. Some then heard gunshots, though the shots might have been fired by police during their pursuit and encounter with the suspect.
After the university posted its active shooter alert, the initial reports about what had happened were unclear, with witnesses describing what sounded like gunshots, an explosion and stabbings. It was not immediately clear if the sound of an explosion was the car crashing, or something else.
Student Yoon Lee was in Watts Hall waiting to go into a class when he heard what sounded like gunshots, a few minutes after a fire alarm had sounded in the building, and looked out the window. He saw someone he believed to be the suspect on the ground, a person lying immobile and face-down on the cement.
Lee said police were nearby and there were three or four individuals on a bench who appeared to be victims.
“I was really shocked,” he said. “I guess I was lucky.”
Another student said they saw the attacker “slashing” wildly rather than targeting any particular person.
Sean Cody, a student from Akron, Ohio, said he was walking to class near Watts Hall when he heard what sounded like an explosion and saw a cloud of dust and about 30 people “booking it,” sprinting away from Watts Hall. He wondered if it was a bomb, then he heard what sounded like three gunshots near Watts Hall. Then he got the alert to go inside.
Haylee Gardiner, a sophomore, said she was walking to meet a professor when she heard people screaming, and saw about 50 people running from the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry building. Then she heard what sounded like five or six gunshots – a familiar sound to her from her small hometown in northeast Ohio where hunting is common – and sprinted with people to a nearby dorm. They went to the top floor and tried to figure out what was happening. “It was absolutely terrifying,” she said.
A professor reached by telephone said he was told that a colleague in the materials science and engineering department had been stabbed at Watts Hall. The professor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because information about the situation remained fluid, said there was no immediate word on the stabbing victim’s condition.
Shortly after 11 a.m., university officials lifted the shelter-in-place directive and canceled all classes on the Columbus campus Monday. In the announcement, university officials said that “law enforcement will continue to have a visible presence on campus.” The campus will remain open, but 14 buildings were closed until further notice.
University police said at about 11:30 a.m. that the scene was “now secure,” but said they would keep an area on the campus closed.
Benjamin Johnson, Ohio State’s director of media relations, said shortly after 10 a.m. that he was seeking to release more information soon on the incident.
The FBI is on scene assisting local police in Columbus. Todd Lindgren, a spokesman for the FBI Field Office in Cincinnati, said Ohio State University police are the lead agency. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Monday it was sending agents from its Columbus division to the Ohio State campus. Columbus police officers and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office also said they were assisting university police.
Daniel Glauser, a senior from Cincinnati, said by phone he was in a break room Monday morning when everyone in the room got the same alert simultaneously. “We’ve been told there’s been a confirmed shooting in the north campus area, and we’re sheltering in place,” he said. Because the room is secured and only certain people have access to it through their ID cards, he said he felt safe.
Ohio State, the state’s public flagship university, has about 58,600 students on its main campus in the capital city of Columbus, just north of the downtown business area and a trendy neighborhood known as short north. North Campus refers to the north side of campus, where the business school and football stadium are located. Watts Hall houses the Department of Materials and Science Engineering.
Police in Upper Arlington, a Columbus suburb right near the Ohio State campus, said that schools there were being placed on a precautionary lockdown due to the reported active shooter incident.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Kathy Gray, Susan Svrluga, Matt Zapotosky, Mark Berman