Ohio State Attacker Said He Was ‘Scared to Pray in Public’

He said he wanted to pray in public on the campus of his new university but he was afraid for his safety as a Muslim.

“If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen,” Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the Ohio State University student responsible for Monday’s attack that injured 11 people on the campus, said in a recent interview with the school newspaper.

The August article, headlined, “Humans of Ohio State,” and interviews with a community member and a co-worker shed more light on Artan, an 18-year-old student of Somali descent.

He had just transferred from a community college, which he said had prayer rooms for Muslim students. But he didn’t know where to pray on the large Ohio State campus. He appeared frustrated at how the media portrayed his faith, and he complained to his mother about school.

On Monday, the Ohio State paper, The Lantern, republished Artan’s quotes from the article. Hours earlier, Ohio State police Officer Alan Horujko shot Artan dead within minutes of him ramming his car into pedestrians and attacking victims with a knife.

Investigators are still searching for a motive.

‘Kind of scared right now’

In the article, Artan said: “I am a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be.”

He said he didn’t blame people for the views they held about Muslims.

“It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re just going to have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable.”

He told the newspaper he was “kind of scared right now.”

“But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.”

The Lantern identified Artan as a third-year student in logistics management.

Before transferring to Ohio State, Artan attended Columbus State Community College starting with the 2014 autumn semester, Allen Kraus, the school’s vice-president of marketing and communications, said in an email.

Artan graduated cum laude with an Associate of Arts degree in 2016 and continued taking classes through summer semester 2016. The school had no record of behavioral or disciplinary issues during his time there, according to Kraus.

In Columbus, Artan worked a job at a Home Depot, an employee said.

The employee said Artan was “a nice, nonviolent person. He talked to everybody.”

That employee who asked not to be named, said he had seen Artan as recently as last week. Store management declined to comment. A Home Depot spokesman confirmed that Artan was currently employed by the company and had worked there for less than a year.

Immigrated from Somalia via Pakistan

A federal law enforcement official and a US official said Artan and his family came to the United States in 2014. They were in Pakistan after leaving Somalia.

Census figures show about 8,000 Somalians live in Ohio, giving the state the second largest Somalian population in the United States, behind Minnesota.

A community member who spoke to Artan’s family described them as a shocked by his actions. Artan’s mother said he also had lately complained about his grades, according to the community member.

Artan’s social media presence showed other complaints.

The Facebook page believed to belong to him included the grievances about attacks on Muslims, according to two federal law enforcement officials, including events in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Shortly before the attack, he wrote: “Seeing my fellow Muslims being tortured, raped and killed in Burma led to a boiling point,” according to federal law enforcement officials.

Muslim leaders urge public to let investigators do their job

In a news conference Monday, leaders in the local Muslim community condemned Artan’s attack.

“As Ohioans, as Americans and as Muslims, we’re shocked by today’s senseless attack,” said Roula Allouch, national board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We stand together with Ohioans of all faiths and backgrounds in praying for the speedy recovery of all those who were injured in today’s attack.”

Jennifer Nimer, legal director for CAIR’s Ohio chapter, urged the public not to jump to conclusions about Artan’s motive and to let investigators do their job.

“Responding to such a senseless act of violence with hate is never the solution,” Nimer said.

She added: “And we hope that Columbus will continue to be a place where people of all religions and ethnicities can be treated with respect and dignity.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Somalians that live in Ohio.

How it happened

At 9:52 a.m., the assailant drove over a curb and struck pedestrians near Watts Hall, Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone said.

“He got out of the vehicle and started using a butcher knife to start cutting pedestrians,” Stone said. “Our officer was on scene in less than a minute, and he ended the situation in less than a minute.”

But as the chaos unfolded, university officials reported an active shooter incident at Watts Hall, the university’s materials science and engineering building.

“Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College,” Ohio State Emergency Management tweeted at 9:56 a.m.

It’s possible the gunshots heard came from police trying to stop the attacker, a federal law enforcement official said.

Throughout the attack, the assailant didn’t yell or say anything, Bower said.

“He was completely silent, which was very creepy. Not even when he was shot (by police),” the student said.

“The cop that subdued the guy with the knife saved so many lives today.”

Stacking chairs for safety

While students waited to hear word on the attacker’s movements, some piled chairs against a door to block him from getting in.

“I’m safe in a barricaded room,” Harrison Roth tweeted. “If you’re on campus, get in a room and stay safe.”

Ohio State’s Columbus campus is colossal, one of the largest in the United States. The university has more than 65,000 students enrolled across the state.

Students had just returned to class Monday after the Thanksgiving break — and after the OSU football team’s big win Saturday over the school’s biggest rival, the University of Michigan.

Michigan’s athletic department tweeted its support for Ohio State, saying “Stay safe, Buckeyes.”

Students are getting ready for final exams, which begin on December 9.

The incident also comes during the first month of the Ohio State public safety director’s job. Monica Moll came to the helm on October 31.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, “My thoughts are with the victims of this attack right now and I pray for their safety and recovery. I am grateful for the professional, coordinated response from first responders whose efforts helped effectively contain this incident before further harm could be done. I have been staying in contact with Ohio first responders since the incident began and have spoken with Ohio State’s President Dr. Michael Drake to pledge whatever additional help the university needs.”