9 hurt when man rams pedestrians with car, then attacks with butcher knife at Ohio State University

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An attack on the campus of The Ohio State University that left 9 people injured and a knife-wielding suspect dead is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism, officials said.

The attacker was an 18-year-old student of Somali descent who was a legal permanent resident, CNN reported. A car used in the attack was registered to a family member.

OSU police said he rammed the vehicle over the curb on 19th Avenue in front of Watts Hall and plowed through a group of pedestrians at about 9:52 a.m. He then leapt from his car and began swatting at students with a butcher knife, OSU Chief of Police Craig Stone said.

"This was done on purpose," Stone said.

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs was asked at a news conference Monday afternoon whether authorities were considering the possibility that it was a terror attack.

Jacobs says, "I think we have to consider that it is."

Police shot and killed the attacker within one minute, Stone said. His body remained on the pavement as police secured the scene. Ten victims were sent to three area hospitals. Some had stab wounds while others were injured by the vehicle, according to Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Most victims' injuries were not considered life-threatening. One person was in critical condition, Thomas said. He added that more information about the victims will be released later.

"It’s just one of those things where you go to class today, and next thing you know, you’re laying the hospital. And so we’re very grateful for everybody being able to make it out of this alive," Jabos said.

Officers brought two men out of a campus parking garage, but Jacobs said there's no reason to believe they're connected to the attack. There's also no information leading police to believe there may be more suspects, she said.

Shortly before 10 a.m. Monday, the school recommended anyone in the vicinity of Watts Hall at 19th Avenue and College Road to shelter in place through it's emergency alert system with the instructions run, hide and fight. OSU Director of Public safety Monica Moll explained these three options are standard protocol as OSU educates students how to handle emergency situations.

At 11:30 a.m., OSU police officials said the shelter-in-place order had been lifted and the scene was secured. A list of buildings around campus that will remain closed for the day is here.

OSU President Michael Drake reassured students and parents that the university administration has their backs. 

"We’re here for them, and we want to do everything to help them have a full and complete recovery and let them know that we care for them as people as well as patients,” Drake said. “We live in an unstable world unfortunately, and we have to do the best we can to protect ourselves from these sorts of things."

Facebook activated its safety check feature for OSU students so friends and family could ensure their loved ones are safe. 

All classes have been canceled for the remainder of the day. Ramps from S.R. 315 to access the campus remain blocked off by police.

OSU student and Fort Mitchell native Madeline Schwarz told WCPO she was about five blocks away and sheltered in place when the incident happened, but that one of her roommates was right near the activity in a building near Watts Hall. Schwarz is the daughter of WCPO reporter Lucy May. 

"Everyone’s really frazzled — we immediately called our family members to tell them that’s we’re OK," Schwarz said. "The professors kind of shut down class and they're all moving toward the walls. The lecture halls do not lock in those buildings so everyone’s really on edge still."

Witnesses told Schwarz they suspect somebody pulled a fire alarm so students would head outside of Watts Hall so that another suspect could drive into the crowd, get out of the car, and start shooting or knifing the victims. Stone confirmed a gas leak had been reported at Watts Hall Monday morning, but it is still under investigation whether the alarm and the stabbing incident are connected. 

First-year student Carver Nabb said he was safe in his dormitory, Mendoza House, midway between Watts Hall and the Lane Avenue Garage. He told WCPO he'll spend the rest of the day lying low in his dorm room.

"It was a little nerve-racking, just knowing -- because there definitely were people who didn't have phones on them at the time. So it was nerve-racking to reach out to friends on campus and not receive any response and not know if they were OK or not," Nabb said.

Jacobs said she hoped Monday's attack would spur parents to talk with their children about what to do if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.

"Don't gawk, don't stand around saying, 'Oh, I got to get a picture of this.' Get to safety, you know, whether than means running, whether than means locking the door or whatever it might be," she said.

The last time a shooting was reported on the OSU campus was 2015, when a 63-year-old former college security officer shot and killed himself at a college-run art gallery.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who postponed a Monday event because of the attack, released this statement:

"My thoughts are with the victims of this attack right now and I pray for their safety and recovery. I am grateful for the professional, coordinated response from first responders whose efforts helped effectively contain this incident before further harm could be done. I have been staying in contact with Ohio first responders since the incident began and have spoken with Ohio State's President Dr. Michael Drake to pledge whatever additional help the university needs."

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