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UC Merced Stabbing Shocks Students: "The Campus Lost Its Innocence"

Diana Aguilera
Valley Public Radio
UC Merced students left campus Wednesday morning midst confusion, fear and distress.

Authorities are continuing their investigation this morning into yesterday’s stabbing of four people at UC Merced. While law enforcement agencies including the FBI are trying to piece together exactly what happened, FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports the event has rocked the campus.

Ever since UC Merced opened its doors in 2005 it’s been known as a quiet, tight knit campus community. But that all changed early Wednesday.

Freshman Norma Ambriz was in her morning chemistry class when the chaos started.

"When we were in class we did hear a bit of a ruckus outside of our classroom,” she says. “There were people yelling but we were just thinking someone was fighting someone outside. One of our deans came inside and told us to evacuate the building."

To their surprise, a man had stabbed four people including two students, a construction worker, and an academic advisor. After a short pursuit the suspect was shot and killed by a campus police officer. The Merced County Sheriff's Office identified the suspect Thursday morning as 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad, a freshman majoring in computer science and engineering from Santa Clara.

Ambriz says the tragic event has shocked the entire campus.

“This is such a calm neighborhood. Especially this community. We're always here for each other and the fact that something like this has happened... we don't even need the use of security sometimes,” she says. 

"But the fact that this did happen on our university, it has frightened all of us. No one wants to go outside." -Freshman Norma Ambriz

Police say it all started around 8 a.m. when Mohammad stabbed another student in a classroom on the second floor. At that time, a construction worker came inside the classroom trying to stop the madness but was also stabbed. Merced campus police Chief Albert Vasquez explains what happened next.

“The suspect then fled down the stairs at which point another student was injured and went across were the employee was, the employee was stabbed. And then continued to run out”

According to officials, that’s when Mohammad was shot by a campus police officer and died shortly after. Two of the victims suffered serious injuries, but all four are expected to recover.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke describes the knife the student used in the attack.

“It was a fixed blade hunting style knife, from what I remember seeing it, it looked to be 8 to 10 inches.”’

He says the situation could have been much worse if not for the quick actions of campus law enforcement.

"If the campus police officer that got involved with this had been anywhere else and not as close I believe that we would have a lot more tragedies and even some deaths pertaining to this."

Students say the stabbing has rocked the normally quiet campus community.

"I never thought it would happen here the environment on campus is so positive. I feel like the campus lost its innocence to be honest." - Junior Amritvir Singh

Several agencies are helping in the investigation including the FBI. A bomb squad was also called to the scene to examine and dispose of a bag that belonged to Mohammad. Students were told to leave campus and to stay away from the Classroom and Office Building where the stabbing happened.

Campus officials also say some residents of the Tuolumne Hall dorm have been relocated as the crime scene has expanded. Authorities say they don’t know about a possible motive for the attack, or if the suspect knew any of the victims.

20-year-old Junior Owen Ram had just got to campus. He saw students running, and an overall sense of fear.

“I was definitely frightened when I came on to campus. Students were definitely scared, it was about to start the lockdown so it was definitely very frightening,” Ram says. “Students were in a very bad place emotionally.”

He says he never thought something like this would happen at his school.

“I was very frightened I’ve only hear about incidents like this in the past. Fresno State recently had a media threat, Oregon had a couple shootings but I never thought this would happen at UC Merced where we have such a close knit community.”

Classes and events on campus have been cancelled today as the investigation is still under way. Courses are expected to resume on Friday. 

Diana Aguilera is a multimedia reporter native of Santiago, Chile. It was during her childhood in Santiago where her love for journalism sparked. Diana moved to Fresno while in her teens and is a proud graduate of California State University, Fresno. While earning her degree in journalism and minor in Latin American studies, Diana worked for the Fresno Bee. Her work as a general assignment reporter continued after college and was recognized by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2014, she joined Valley Public Radio. Her hobbies include yoga, traveling and reading.
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