The Merced County District Attorney’s Office has ruled that the deadly use of force by UC Merced police officers on a suspected attacker at the campus was justified.
UC Merced freshman Faisal Mohammad, 18, of Santa Clara was shot dead by law enforcement on Nov. 4 after he stabbed four individuals during a violent rampage on the campus.
Merced County District Attorney Larry D. Morse II stated that his office has reviewed the police reports and other evidence that led Officer Olaf Lopez to use deadly force. The review concluded the imminent threat Mohammad presented to officers when he was contacted justified his actions.
Mohammad was angry at being kicked out of a study group and this 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. Nov. 4 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 his 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.
According to the evidence cited by Morse, Lopez and Officer Kevin Warkentin had been dispatched to another call for service at the Library Building when they received a radio transmission reporting the stabbing and a description of the suspect. Upon scanning the common area outside the Library, Lopez saw Mohammad stabbing the staff member outside the building.
The two officers pursued Mohammad and caught up to him on the bridge just west of the Library. The officers yelled for Mohammad to stop. According to the district attorney’s office, Mohammad turned toward the officers with the large knife in his right hand.
The officers and Mohammad were separated by approximately 10 feet. Both officers commanded Mohammad to “get on the ground” and “put the knife down,” according to the evidence. These commands were issued repeatedly by the officers but ignored by Mohammad.
The investigation report states “Mohammad immediately advanced toward the officers and appeared to lunge toward Lopez with the knife raised about shoulder height. Lopez drew his service weapon and fired one shot at Mohammad. When Mohammad continued to advance toward the officer he fired a second shot and Mohammad fell to the ground. “
Paramedics called to the scene pronounced Mohammad dead.
“This horrible event was a tragedy for everyone involved, especially Officer Lopez who was forced by Mohammad’s aggressive actions to use deadly force,” Morse said. “Officer Lopez correctly assessed a potentially life threatening situation and took the necessary action to protect himself or anyone else from becoming a victim of a person who was clearly intent on inflicting injury or death on innocent people.
“Unfortunately, the force necessary to protect himself and others resulted in the loss of a life, but everyone from the UC Merced police to students to medical personnel responded with the highest level of professionalism,” Morse said.
The investigation was led by Chief Investigator Pat Lunney, who served for 15 years as Merced Police Chief and six years as Director of the Division of Law Enforcement for the California Attorney General’s office.