The assailant has not officially been named, but local news stations have identified the attacker as a Somali refugee student with permanent legal residence in the U.S.
While the motive for the attack is still unknown, there are questions about whether the assailant may have carried it out in jihad, since Somlia is a Muslim-majority country. The country has also become a haven for terror groups – including ISIS – since civil war broke out in the 1990s.
At an afternoon press conference, officials said there appeared to be only one attacker, who wielded a knife and a car during the attack – countering earlier reports of a shooting involving possibly multiple assailants.
The chaos started just before 10am, when a fire alarm was pulled at Watts Hall, home to the chemical engineering department. As people were evacuating the building, a man driving a silver car jumped the curb and mowed down the crowds of innocent bystanders.
The attacker then got out of the car and started slashing victims with a butcher knife. A witness told CNN that the knife-wielding man remained silent throughout the attack but had a ‘crazed’ look on his face. An OSU police officer was on the scene within a minute and shot the attacker dead.
After the incident at Watts Hall, police investigated rumors of a possible second assailant holed up in a nearby parking garage. SWAT teams stormed the building just before 11am and minutes later two men were led out in handcuffs. However, officials now say that they did not find any additional suspects in the garage.
The incident remains under investigation.
Just after 11:30am, the university lifted the shelter in place, but cancelled classes for the rest of the day.
So far, at least nine people have been transported to the hospital. One is in critical condition and the rest are in stable condition. Five of the victims were transported to OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, while two were taken to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center and another two to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.
Two of the patients at OSU were being treated for stab wounds and two for wounds due to being hit by the car. As of 1pm, the fifth victim had just been admitted to the hospital, after sheltering in place during the lockdown. That victim’s injuries were still being evaluated.
The patients taken to Grant were being treated for non-life-threatening lacerations from knife wounds while the patients taken to Riverside were being treated for motor vehicle injuries and are reportedly doing well.
Students were instructed to ‘run, hide and fight’ in a tweet posted by the school’s office of emergency management just before 10am.
‘Run, hide, fight’ is standard protocol for active shooter situations. It means: Run, evacuate if possible; Hide, get silently out of view; or Fight, as a last resort, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.
A high-ranking faculty member who spoke to NBC 4 Columbus said that one of his colleagues was in Watts Hall at the time and was slashed in the leg with a machete.