Merced Sheriff: UC Merced stabbing not a terrorist act

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Thursday, November 5, 2015
UC Merced stabbing suspect identified
The Merced County Sheriff's Office said the suspect has been identified as 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Merced County Sheriff's Office said the suspect has been identified as 18-year-old UC Merced student Faisal Mohammad, and does not have ties to terrorist.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said they found nothing in Mohammad's history, his belongings, or his computer to indicate there was anything other than personal motivations to carry out the attack. He said Mohammad's backpack contained zip-tie handcuffs, petroleum jelly, a night scope, and a hammer to break windows. There was also a handwritten note that had a list of the items in his backpack, but not explanation for the stabbing incident. Warnke described the petroleum jelly as a "poor man's C4" explosive -- which is why the bomb squad was called out to neutralize the backpack.

Sheriff Warnke said the FBI looked into Mohammad's background and family and found nothing to indicate terrorist ties. When asked about an ISIS tweet that praised Mohammad's actions, Warnke said ISIS was most likely just taking advantage of the attacker's ethnic name to instill terror.

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said the incident was a horrible act by a single individual. She said the UC Merced campus opened at noon on Thursday, and classes would resume on Friday.

Mohammad was a first year Computer Science and Engineering major from Santa Clara. His suitemate at the college dormitories, Andrew Velasquez, said he didn't talk much and kept to himself. "Every time I would try and say something he would just ignore it," said Velasquez.

RELATED: Suitemate of UC Merced stabbing suspect talks

Authorities say Mohammad stabbed four people on the UC Merced campus Wednesday before he was shot and killed by campus police. The four victims included two students, one staff member and one construction worker. The Sheriff's office said as of Thursday morning, one student remains hospitalized but is expected to recover, and the other student was treated and released. The staff member suffered a collapsed lung and was recovering Thursday after successful surgery. The construction worker was treated and released Wednesday.

Sheriff's Warnke said he believed Mohammad had a bigger plan, but was slowed down by construction worker Byron Price, and ultimately stopped by a campus police officer.

Chancellor Leland said a vigil is planned on Friday at the Scholars Lane Bridge.

Stay with Action News and for more on this story.


Statement From Chancellor Leland on Yesterday's Incident

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland issued the following message to the campus community in the wake of yesterday's stabbing incident on the UC Merced campus:

"We are in the preliminary stages of our inquiry, but based on the evidence gathered so far, including at the crime scene and at the suspect's campus dormitory room, we have no reason to believe that this was in any way related to terrorism.

"At this point, it would be irresponsible to draw such conclusions based solely on the ethnicity of the suspect.

"At this point in time, the preliminary evidence suggests that freshman computer science and engineering student Faisal Mohammad of Santa Clara appears to have been motivated by personal animosities, not a political agenda.

"If not for the prompt action of a contract employee, our students and then by campus police, we might have faced far greater injury.

"Based on eyewitness accounts, students in the classroom played pivotal roles not only in alerting police and thwarting further attacks but also in providing first aid to the initial victims.

"While classes are canceled for today, the campus reopened at noon so that faculty and staff could return for critical business. The campus also resumed dining operations and opened its recreation center for the benefit of on-campus students. Full operations will resume on Friday.

"Meanwhile, we have brought in resources from across the University of California system to provide counseling to our students, faculty and staff. No one in our campus community has been untouched by this tragic event. But we are a close-knit campus, and we are helping each other through this difficult time.

"I am touched by the outpouring of support from across the nation, but in particular the Merced community. Thank you.

"But I also want to call out our students. They have rallied together, are helping each other, and have even organized a vigil for tomorrow night to reclaim the Scholars Lane Bridge that is such an important symbol of our community."