A freshman student who stabbed four people at a California university meant to do even more harm, but he acted alone and had no connections to terrorist groups, authorities said Thursday.
Faisal Mohammad, 18, burst into his class at UC Merced and attacked a fellow student with a hunting knife Wednesday morning. He stabbed three others, including a construction worker credited with preventing Mohammad from killing anyone, before police shot him dead as he fled across campus.
Police found zip-tie handcuffs, duct tape and a hammer in a backpack near his body. It also contained two plastic baggies of petroleum jelly, which Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke called a “poor’s man” explosive if ignited.
Warnke and other officials said background checks of Mohammad and his family show the 18-year-old had no connections to organized hate or terror groups and no past behavior to suggest he would lash out violently.
“We had zero to indicate he was on anyone’s radar,” Warnke said.
Investigators also found a list of items Mohammad planned to pack in his backpack before the attacks.
“His intention was to do more damage,” school spokeswoman Lorena Anderson said. “But there is absolutely no reason to believe that this was anything more than an angry young man acting alone.”
Anderson said it’s unclear if Mohammad targeted anyone in particular in the class required of all university freshmen. All four victims are expected to survive.
Byron Price, 31, a construction worker doing remodeling work next door, interrupted the attack, rushing into the classroom to break up what he thought was a fistfight. Price said Mohammad charged at him with the knife and looked scared.
“He also looked like he was having fun,” Price, who was stabbed in the side, told the Merced Sun Star. “His eyes, I could see fear in his eyes. He was smiling.”
His college roommate called him an anti-social loner. But a high school buddy expressed shock that Mohammad stabbed four people.
“He was quiet, but he was really friendly,” Ish Patel said. “He was intelligent, too — he performed well academically.”
Patel said Mohammad enjoyed basketball, going to the mosque to pray and playing video games with his friends. He lost contact with Mohammad after they graduated from high school in Santa Clara, California, in June.
“I’m definitely shocked,” Patel said.
But Mohammad’s suitemate at college paints another portrait. Andrew Velasquez told KSFN-TV in Fresno that Mohammad, who was majoring in computer science and engineering, kept to himself.
“(Mohammad) didn’t talk much. And I never saw him walk with anybody. Walking to class, I never saw him walk with anybody,” Velasquez said.
One student remained hospitalized Thursday, and a staff member who suffered a collapsed lung was recovering after surgery, the school said. Price and a second student were treated and released.
Classes would resume Friday at the university about 120 miles south of Sacramento in the farm-rich San Joaquin Valley.