Would this not be classified as a terrorist attack? If a Muslim ran down Americans in Iraq with an SUV, he would have been labeled an insurgent. Right? I don't see the media calling this a terrorism-related event.
News 14's Kenneth Moton has the latest on the investigation into the SUV incident, which now includes the FBI.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A recent University of North Carolina graduate faces attempted murder charges after a sport utility vehicle raced through a popular campus gathering spot Friday, hurting nine people and scattering startled bystanders.
Six people -- five students and a visiting scholar -- were treated for minor injuries and released from UNC Hospitals, the university said in a statement. Three other people declined treatment at the scene, police said.
Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, 22, who graduated in December with a double major in psychology and philosophy, was being held Friday by campus police. They intend to charge him with nine counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, said Capt. George Hare of the UNC Department of Public Safety.
The FBI joined the case because Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, "allegedly made statements that he acted to avenge the American treatment of Muslims. The ongoing investigation will work to confirm this," said Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington.
Taheri-azar called police to surrender and then awaited officers on a side street about two miles away from campus, Chapel Hill police Capt. Brian Curran said.
"He kind of gave himself up," said Officer Herbert Bryant of the university's Department of Public Safety.
Officials say the incident occurred in front of Lenoir Hall in a gathering area known as The Pit, a popular gathering spot in the center of the campus. A bomb squad searched Taheri-azar's apartment in nearby Carrboro and declared the building safe. Taheri-azar encouraged authorities to check the apartment after he was arrested.
"He said it almost in a baiting type of way," Carrboro police spokesman Capt. Joel Booker said.
Local authorities declined to say what they found in Taheri-azar's apartment or to discuss a motive. Investigators continued to search the apartment Friday night for other evidence, Booker said.
The incident happened just before noon near the center of campus at the area known as The Pit, a sunken, brick-paved area surrounded by two libraries, a dining hall and the student union. It does not have any easy access points for vehicles and can't be reached without deliberation.
"I see everyone kind of part because there's a car coming through and the next thing I know, I'm on his windshield," sophomore Jeff Hoffman, his arm in a bandage, told the campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.
Student Nicholas Altman was talking on his cell phone when he heard someone scream.
"I turned around and there was a white SUV. It looked like it hit a couple of people. One person in particular went over the hood," he told WRAL-TV.
On a sunny, cool day like Friday, the Pit is a busy center of campus activities, with students perched along the walkways and steps. Friday's noontime crowd included a gathering of candidates for Black Student Movement elections.
"He slowly came in, and I thought he was going to stop or something," sophomore Scott Wilson, a candidate for BSM vice president, told The Daily Tar Heel. "But then he sped right through."
The incident came a week after a UNC dormitory resident adviser was killed when he and another student crashed through a dorm window, falling four stories onto the concrete below. The second student remains hospitalized in fair condition.
Last month, Muslim students at UNC protested the publication in The Daily Tar Heel of an original cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad. Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry. The recent publication of a series of cartoons of Muhammad in European newspapers sparked violent protests in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The Muslim Students Association, which was among the leading critics of the cartoon, said Teheri-azar had never been a member of the group and denounced him on its Web site.
"Regardless of what his intentions prove to be, we wholeheartedly deplore this action, and trust that our fellow classmates will be able to dissociate the actions of this one disturbed individual from the beliefs of the Muslim community as a whole," the statement said. "Peace be upon you all."