Abdul Razak Ali Artan, an 18-year-old business student, ran his car over the curb of a street, and then emerged with a butcher’s knife at The Ohio State University on Nov. 28, 2016. He began slashing and stabbing before an armed campus security guard was able to shoot and kill him. The result of the encounter was 11 injured and Artan dead.
In the days following the attack, there has been a flurry of assessments attempting to uncover Artan’s motives. He lamented America’s negative treatment of Muslims worldwide on social media just before his attack.
“America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak,” he wrote. What apparently sent Artan to his “boiling point” was the abuse of Muslims in Burma.
The FBI reported that they had not investigated Artan prior to Monday’s attack; nevertheless, an Islamic State news agency reported that Artan was a soldier who has “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries.”
Whether or not Artan was merely inspired by, or directly called to action by the Islamic State is a moot point; anyone who equates the slashing of innocent people on a sidewalk in Ohio with the ill treatment of Muslims by the Burmese government is completely irrational and unpredictable, which highlights the reality of campus safety.
One may remember the Virginia Tech Massacre, in which a senior, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people. He began his rampage in a dormitory before he returned to his own room to rearm and leave a disturbing note saying “you caused me to do this.” He then went to an academic building where the slaughter commenced, taking the lives of professors and students alike.
Some current students at Allegheny may even recall the threats of former student Luong Phan. In 2014, Phan wrote on Facebook, “Death is coming for all,” “Everything will END in 2 days if you don’t believe in me,” and “Allegheny College, you are hell on earth. Everyone living there you better leave ASAP. Death awaits you.” Phan was later arrested by the Erie Police at his home, served two months in jail during his proceedings and was sentenced to five years of supervision. It is shocking that even at a small college like Allegheny, the possibility for such violence exists.
Developments in technology have made the potential threat grow. With the advent of 3-D printing, one could manufacture a functioning gun in their dorm room.
In addition, some of the older buildings on campus, such as Arter Hall, have classroom doors that cannot be locked from inside and require a key to lock them from the outside. These rooms do not have large pieces of furniture that could be used to construct a sufficient barricade for the door, or block their large panes of glass. Even with all this considered, one must resist the temptation to indulge in such “what if” games.
Shootings and stabbings on campuses remain sporadic and random. There is no proven method of predicting and anticipating acts of violence by irrational actors. One must simply be aware; this is the first step in proper defense.
Furthermore, the Meadville police department has a tangible presence on Campus, especially on weekends. Communication between Public Safety and Meadville police is key.
Beyond that, there is not much more that can be done, or need to be done. Random acts of evil are a reality, but cannot be considered an everyday worry and alter day-to-day routines. Remaining alert and prepared is all one can do in the face of such an irregular threat. Possible violence can emerge at any time, anywhere, for any reason, or for no reason at all.