Authorities revealed new information regarding the identity and motive of the assailant who stabbed four people at UC Merced on Nov. 4 before being shot and killed by a campus police officer.
In a press conference, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke identified the suspect as 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad, a freshman at UCM from Santa Clara. A handwritten note found in Mohammad’s pocket detailed a plan to take students hostage and eventually steal a police officer’s gun to shoot them and others. In a press conference, Warnke said that Mohammad was angry at being kicked out of a study group and planned this attack as an act of revenge.
The FBI said in a statement that “the incident occurred without warning or advance indication,” and they had no previous knowledge that the attacker posed a threat. The campus — except for the Classroom and Office Building where the attack took place — reopened on Nov. 5 at noon, but classes were canceled and most campus services remained closed until the following day.
UCM students organized a candlelight vigil on Nov. 6 to reclaim Scholars Lane Bridge, an important landmark on campus and the place where the attacker was shot. Participants wore shirts reading #BobCatStrong provided by UCM Chancellor Dorothy Leland. According to a statement issued by Chancellor Leland, around 2,000 students, staff, faculty and community members attended.
Following allegations on social media that the attacker was influenced by extremist organizations, UCM faculty members Anneeth Kaur Hundle and Sean Malloy wrote an op-ed for the Merced Sun-Star where they urged members of the UC community to avoid using this incident to perpetuate Islamophobia.
“UC Merced students, staff and faculty who might be recognized as Muslim or Arab (regardless of their actual heritage or religion) are less safe today than they were yesterday,” they said in the op-ed.
Leland said in a press conference that “based on the evidence […] we have no reason to believe that [the attack] was in any way related to terrorism.” Warnke added that “there is nothing to indicate a political or religious motivation.”
There are no additional threats to the UCM campus, according to a statement issued by the FBI.
“Voices of hate and intolerance have no place in our community,” Leland said in an update to the campus. “We need to surround each other with love and compassion, and work together on our healing process. While the work ahead of us will not be easy, I am confident we will carry on while caring for each other and staying true to our values of acceptance, diversity and inclusion.”