Authorities continue to delve into the life of an 18-year-old UC Merced student after he went on a slashing rampage that injured four people and only came to an end when he was shot to death by police officers Wednesday morning.
The attacker has been identified as Faisal Mohammad, 18, of Santa Clara. Mohammad was a freshman at the university, majoring in Computer Science and Engineering. According to law enforcement, Mohammad went on his rampage because he was angry at being kicked out of a study group.
“Nothing more than a teenage boy acting out against classmates,” said Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke.
Mohammad’s anger at being kicked out of a study group led him to plan a large scale retaliation, according to a two-page handwritten document that the Merced County Coroner’s Office found in his pocket. The sheriff’s department described the document as a “manifesto.”
Mohammad’s manifesto listed students he planned on targeting and laid out a blueprint of how the attack would occur. His first step was to tie the students to their desks using zip ties. His script also included making a phony distress call that would lure in at least one police officer. He planned on attacking the officer and using the gun to continue his rampage.
The attack began around 8 a.m. Wednesday in a second story classroom in the Classroom and Office Building. Mohammad entered the classroom armed with an 8 to 10 inch-long hunting knife and slashed the throat of a male student that was one of the students on Mohammad’s list.
From that moment, Mohammad’s plans began to unravel, when construction worker Byron Price heard the commotion and entered the classroom. Mohammad turned his attention on Price, stabbing him in his side before fleeing the classroom.
Mohammad ran down the stairs and slashed another male student outside. He then ran up behind a female staff member at the university and stabbed her multiple times.
UC Merced police officers were already arriving at the scene and gave chase after Mohammad. According to law enforcement, Mohammad turned toward the officers still armed with the knife and was shot and killed.
“If not for the prompt action of a contract employee, our students and then by campus police, we might have faced far greater injury,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland. “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.”
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.
Mohammad did include praises to Allah in his manifesto, but authorities do not believe the incident was an act of terrorism.
“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,” Leland said. “At this point, it would be irresponsible to draw such conclusions based solely on the ethnicity of the suspect.”
Leland went on to say that it appears Mohammad was “motivated by personal animosities, not a political agenda.”
Mohammad’s backpack was found at the scene and out of an abundance of precaution, the bomb squad was called in to investigate it. Inside the backpack investigators found flex cuffs, zip ties, duct tape, a safety hammer and two clear plastic bags containing petroleum jelly and a night vision scope.
“Mohammad had intentions beyond that of the initial confrontation of causing utter destruction to lives,” said sheriff spokesman Sgt. Delray Shelton.
Bomb squad personnel who examined the bags of petroleum jelly confirmed that it can be used as an ingredient in the production of improvised weapons, Shelton said. Warnke described it as a "poor man's C-4.”
The campus was closed Wednesday and most of Thursday. Classes are scheduled to resume today. Tuolumne Hall, one of the campus’s residence halls, was later evacuated as the crime scene was expanded during the investigation. Students have been allowed back into the residence hall.
In times of crisis, the university provides a number of resources for students, faculty and staff. Counseling is available through Counseling & Psychological Services 24 hours a day — call 228-4266 to schedule an appointment or to talk with a counselor over the phone.