COLUMBUS — The incident on the campus of The Ohio State University today is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack. The attacker, identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali-born legal permanent resident of the U.S., according to a U.S. official, reportedly plowed his car into a group of pedestrians on the OSU campus and began stabbing people with a butcher knife Monday before he was shot to death by a police officer. Police said they are investigating whether it was a terrorist attack.
Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said that the assailant deliberately drove over a curb outside a classroom building and then got out and began attacking people with the knife. A campus officer, who happened to be nearby because of a gas leak, arrived on the scene and shot the driver in less than a minute, Stone said.
Nine people were rushed to hospitals and one was in critical condition, school President Michael Drake said.
Shortly after 11:30 a.m., the OSU Emergency Management Department announced the “shelter in place” order had been lifted. However, school officials announced classes were cancelled for the day.
According to reports, students at OSU received a series of tweets telling students to shelter in place and to “Run, Hide, Fight.” That is standard protocol for active shooter situations. It means: Run, evacuate if possible; hide, get silently out of view; or fight, as a last resort, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.
Tanner Poage of Portsmouth was in Scott Lab on the same street, one block from the scene of the attack when he got word.
“I was actually in a building with no cell service,” Poage said.”I was about a half hour behind everything.”
It wasn’t long until he got a notification of the situation from university officials and he first thought it was going to just be another threat which they had received before.
“They were about to let out class and one of the GAs spoke up and said that they were on lock down because there’s an active shooter,” Tanner Poage said. “We started checking twitter and checking any form of social media that we could find, and actually found out that it was very close.”
He said his professor told them to hang out there in the building and they sat in the lecture hall until given the all-clear.
Meanwhile, Tanner’s father, Doug Poage, was upset to say the least when he heard the news.
“I had a pretty scary morning,” Doug Poage said. “I had 10TV, Channel 4 TV, all pulled up online. I was watching all the different feeds. You talk about something that will make your heart race. That was it.”
Doug Poage said he had a few apprehensive moments. After he resumed communication with his son, he began to coach him as to what to do since the Portsmouth City Schools had just recently gone through an active shooter drill.
“Your mind always starts to wonder when that happens,” Doug Poage said. “We were texting back and forth. He told me he was in the basement and he was safe. Then the communication just stopped. I think I held my breath for about 15 minutes. Then I got something back from him.”
Another Portsmouth resident had a similar experience.
“We have a Buckeye Alert system and we had a text message that said – ‘shelter in place and run, hide, fight,” OSU student David Pettit told the Daily Times. “It’s very scary. You always hear about these things happening, but you never expect that it’s going to hit so close to home.”
Pettit was off campus at the time the first report came in and immediately began to get text messages from friends on campus. He arrived on campus shortly after noon.
“We don’t have to go to class. Everything is streamed,” Pettit said. “I guess when that alert came through, they stopped the lecture and secured in place.”
Pettit said the medical campus, where he is based, is some distance from where the shooting occurred at Watts Hall, located at 19th and College, a materials science and engineering building.
“It’s kind of sad in the world we live in today,” Pettit said. “It is becoming a lot more frequent, but you never think it will happen near your home.”
Around 10 a.m., the university’s emergency management department tweeted “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”
“Run, hide, fight” is standard protocol for active shooter situations. It means: Run, evacuate if possible; hide, get silently out of view; or fight, as a last resort, take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter if your life is in imminent danger.
The university followed up with another tweet: “Continue to shelter in place in north campus area. Follow directions of Police on scene.” The university asked for anyone with information to call police.
In September, a 20-year-old Somali-American stabbed 10 people at a St. Cloud, Minnesota, shopping mall before being shot to death by an off-duty officer. Authorities said he asked some of his victims if they were Muslim. In the past few years, London and other cities abroad have also seen knife attacks blamed on extremists.
With nearly 60,000 students at its main Columbus campus, Ohio State is one of the nation’s largest universities.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this story