MERCED, Calif. (AP) – He attacked with a smile on his face.
Faisal Mohammad, 18, burst into an early-morning University of California, Merced, classroom on Wednesday with a knife and started stabbing a student, authorities said. Byron Price, the construction worker credited with preventing Mohammad from killing, said the teen looked scared.
“He also looked like he was having fun,” Price told the Merced Sun Star. “His eyes, I could see fear in his eyes. He was smiling.”
Authorities Thursday were investigating why the quiet student from Santa Clara carried out the campus attacks that wounded four people, all of whom are expected to survive.
His college roommate called him an anti-social loner. But a high school buddy expressed shock that Mohammad is suspected of stabbing 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.
Patel said he lost contact with Mohammad after high school graduation in June.
“I’m definitely shocked,” Patel said.
Mohammad’s suitemate at college, however, paints another portrait.
Andrew Velasquez told KSFN-TV in Fresno that Mohammad 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.
Mohammad was majoring in computer science and engineering.
One student still was hospitalized Thursday, and a staff member who suffered a collapsed lung was recovering after surgery, the school said in a statement. Price and another student were treated and released.
Student Lensy Maravilla, 19, said she was in a biology class on the second floor of the same building when a student ran in.
Maravilla said the student “was crying hysterically and came in and said that she had seen somebody get stabbed, or slashed, in the throat and she ran.”
Classes were canceled until Friday at the university about 120 miles south of Sacramento in the farm-rich San Joaquin Valley.
Larry and Yen Little drove about 110 miles from Elk Grove to get their daughter Dana. Larry Little said he knows incidents of campus violence are rampant.
“I knew someday it might, but I was just hoping it wouldn’t happen here. It’s a small campus out in the country,” Little said. “Thank God the guy didn’t have a gun, shooting people, killing them.”
Stabbings involving multiple victims on college campuses have not raised as much alarm as mass shootings because the attacks do not usually result in as many deaths or injuries. Several U.S. colleges have been the site of knife attacks.
A student at Morgan State University in Maryland was charged in March with slashing two other students with a pocketknife outside a campus dining hall. In 2013, a 20-year-old student at a Texas community college wounded at least 14 people during a building-to-building attack.
UC Merced has about 6,000 students and opened a decade ago in the state’s farm belt in response to the burgeoning enrollment in the nine other UC campuses. Regents also felt the mainly agricultural region was unrepresented by higher education.
Chancellor Dorothy Leland sought to reassure families that their children would be safe at UC Merced.
“This was a tragic accident, a tragic event, OK? But the person who caused this event will no longer be able to cause an event in the future,” she said.
Elias reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Lisa Leff in San Francisco and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this story.
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