UNC hit & run — for "retribution for the treatment of Muslims around the world"
Posted by Jon Sanders at 3:43 PMTitle changed to reflect news as of 7:05 p.m. (see below). Original title: "UNC hit & run may be related to Mohammed cartoon in The Daily Tar Heel."
Authorities say 23-year-old Mohammed Reza Taheriazar drove a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee drove into The Pit at the UNC-Chapel Hill campus around noon Friday, injuring five students and a visiting scholar.
Police said they would charge Taheriazar, who was a UNC student as recently as Fall 2005, with multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Authorities are not releasing a motive, but they did say the incident was intentional.
It's not too much of a stretch to think that this is related to the "Mohammed" cartoon flap at UNC. News about that: Story 1, Story 2, Story 3.
Update: 3:50 p.m. — WRAL site now has this flash headline:
BREAKING NEWS: Carrboro police are on the scene of a suspicious situation at University Commons Apartments in Carrboro. Authorities will not confirm what the situation is about.
Unconfirmed reports are saying the two incidents are related. Here's a link to the Live Sky 5 Video.
Update: 4:09 p.m. — Here is the offending cartoon:
Update: 4:15 p.m. — The Daily Tar Heel has added this report:
Mohammed Reza Taheriazar, 23, who graduated in 2005, is in custody at the Department of Public Safety after turning himself in after the incident. ...
At about 2 p.m. a bomb threat was called into the University Commons apartment buiding D, at 303 Smith Level Road, where Taheriazar is believed to live. State Bureau of Investigations officials entered the building at 3:03 p.m. The Federal Bureau of Investigations now have arrived.
Capt. Joel Booker, of the Carrboro Police Department, said they are not sure how the threat is related to the campus incident. Officials believe Taheriazar lives in University Commons. All buildings have been cleared. Booker says there is reason to believe that there is a public threat at the building.
Update 4:34 p.m. — I've got an unconfirmed report that Taheriazar was the one who phoned in the bomb threat on his apartment building. (Which might mean it's not credible?)
Update 4:42 p.m. — This isn't new news, but I think it's important to point out that Taheriazar had rented the SUV this morning at Enterprise Rent-a-Car this morning (that's in the news links above). Also, WRAL has several photos of the hit-and-run on the Pit.
Update 4:59 p.m. — WRAL has pulled its "Breaking News" headline about the Carrboro apartment complex. I'm hoping that means the bomb threat has subsided.
Update 5:18 p.m. — WRAL has a photo of Taheriazar, whom they say will be charged with "with multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill." A student tells WRAL that "He was speeding up and swerving to hit people. One person got knocked out of a wheelchair, and he didn't care." Here is the photo of Taheriazar:
Update: 6:50 p.m. — NBC 17 News has an update on the apartment threat. Some highlights:
Authorities told NBC-17 Taheriazar made a comment while he was being taken into custody which prompted police to rush to University Commons Apartment Complex off of Smith Level Road. [As opposed to having "phoned" it in as rumored earlier.]
Police, SWAT teams and fire departments have swarmed the complex. Capt. Joel Booker, of the Carrboro Police Department, told NBC-17 authorities have not entered Taheriazar's apartment. They are apparently waiting on legal permission to do so.
Taheriazar has two roommoates, one of which authorities have already located. They are still searching for the other.
I must say, this is less encouraging. The article included this news about a motive: "Authorities were unsure of a motive for the attack, Hare said. 'As far as delving into his motives and things like that, we're in the process of developing that in our investigation,' he said."
Update 7:05 p.m. — ABC 11 News reports a motive:
The driver of an SUV that plowed into a group of pedestrians at UNC-Chapel Hill on Friday told police it was retribution for the treatment of Muslims around the world, according to ABC News.
I wonder: Were there any Muslims in the Pit when he plowed in?
Regarding Taheriazar's roommates, the article included this quotation: "Thomas said his sources said Taheriazar may have been the sole actor in the attack."
Update: 7:55 p.m. — The DTH has a new story up. There are several questions about Taheriazar's past, including possible previous reckless driving charges. It has more about the investigation at his apartment, too:
Carrboro police officials, a bomb squad, a Hazmat team and the state and federal Bureaus of Investigation have been staked out at Building D of the University Commons apartment complex, at 303 Smith Level Road, since 2 p.m.
Police became suspicious of the building, where Taheri-azar is believed to now live, after his arrest. No counter-terrorist agents are present, said Capt. Joel Booker of the Carrboro Police Department.
The bomb squad, Hazmat officials and other personnel entered the building at 5:28 p.m. A loud boom was heard from inside the building, but no incident has been reported.
The report mentions that Taheriazar had a "grim smirk on his face" as he was being escorted out to be taken to the Orange County jail. You can see it here:
Update: 8:32 p.m. — Forbes is on the story reporting this tidbit of interest:
The FBI joined the case because Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, "allegedly made statements that he acted to avenge the American treatment of Muslims," said agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington. "The ongoing investigation will work to confirm this."
Update: 9:30 p.m. — WRAL has an in-depth story up now:
... The FBI joined the case because Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, "allegedly made statements that he acted to avenge the American treatment of Muslims. The ongoing investigation will work to confirm this," said Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington. ...
A bomb squad from the State Bureau of Investigation spent about 4 1/2 hours at Taheri-azar's apartment at the request of police before declaring the building safe. Taheri-azar "encouraged the checking of his apartment" with comments made after he was arrested, Carrboro police spokesman Capt. Joel Booker said.
"He said it almost in a baiting type of way," Booker said.
Local authorities declined to say what they found in Taheri-azar's apartment or to discuss a motive. Investigators continued to search the apartment Friday night for other evidence, Booker said.
This will likely be the last update of the night for me, unless there's a major new finding.
Update: 12:48 a.m. — ABC News has updated its story (linked at the 7:05 update). New information:
A law enforcement source tells Eyewitness News that Taheri-azar had been plotting the attack for some time and was prepared to die. Sources think he acted alone. ...
Sources tell Eyewitness News and ABC News that Taheri-azar was intent on killing people Friday.
"One official said the officials and students on campus were lucky today," Thomas said. "Because if he had done what he wanted to do, you'd probably have some dead people on your campus."
The article adds that the Muslim Students Association has denounced Taheri-azar, who was never a member of their group.
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