Here’s what we know—and don’t—about the Ohio State University attacker

Police respond to reports of an active shooter on Ohio State’s campus.
Police respond to reports of an active shooter on Ohio State’s campus.
Image: AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Chaos broke out at Ohio State University today (Nov. 28) in the immediate aftermath of a violent attack.

Around 10am local time, the school’s emergency management department warned students of an active shooter on the Columbus, Ohio campus and instructed them—without providing further context—to “run, hide, fight.” As it turns out, there was no shooter; there was, however, an individual who rammed his car into a group of pedestrians and began attacking them with a knife, injuring 11, according to CNN (other news outlets have reported nine victims).

Meanwhile, students, faculty, and staff locked themselves inside classrooms, reportedly piling up chairs and desks in front of doors as a barricade. About an hour and a half later, the police alerted the campus that it was safe to leave.

The attacker, who was shot and killed by a campus officer, has since been identified as as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali-born individual lawfully residing in the US, government officials told the AP.

Most of the details surrounding the event, including Artan’s motive, are still unknown. Here is what we know for sure, so far:

  • Artan drove a vehicle into a group of students on campus, then got out of it and began attacking them with a “butcher’s knife,” according to state police. After only a few minutes, he was shot dead by campus officer Alan Horujko, who happened to be nearby investigating a gas leak.
  • Artan was a refugee from Somalia. He left his country in 2007, lived in Pakistan for a few  years, then moved to the US two years ago, according to law enforcement officials cited by NBC.
  • Authorities are still investigating the nature of the attack. When asked at a news conference if the event could’ve been a terrorist act, Columbus police chief Kim Jacobs said “I think we have to consider that it is,” as the possibility cannot be ruled out just yet.

As for what we don’t know—the list is long. A profile in Ohio State’s student newspaper this fall lists Artan as a third-year logistics management student who transferred from Columbus State Community College. Discussing prayer on campus, Artan said in the profile: “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 so they’re just going to have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable.”

Classes have been canceled for the rest of the day at the university, and the victims are currently being treated for stab wounds and injuries. Questions of terrorism aside, the event has sparked a separate debate online today about emergency safety protocol: Ohio State’s instruction to “run, hide, fight” caused a fair amount of confusion and panic at first, leading more than a few people to draw premature conclusions about the event.