FBI officials said for the first time Wednesday that Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have been inspired by ISIS or radical Islamic leaders to carry out the attack that injured 11 people at Ohio State University on Monday.
But federal authorities say they have yet to find direct links or determine Artan’s motive.
“It is too soon to draw any type of conclusions whether or not this is terrorism. We have a long road to go in the investigation,” said Angela Byers, special agent in charge of the FBI Cincinnati Field Office. “We have lots of evidence and lots of digital media to go through and that could uncover a trove of information for us.”
Although Byers said Anwar al-Awlaki, a former al Qaeda leader who was killed by an American drone strike, may have served as an inspiration to Artan, she all but dismissed a statement by ISIS claiming credit for the attack.
“In the past, they have claimed responsibility when the assailant has been dead and can’t refute that,” she said. “So, that makes it pretty easy for them.”
OSU Officer Alan Horujko shot and killed Artan a short distance from where he drove his car onto a curb and into a crowd of people milling around because of a fire alarm.
Byers said authorities are still working to determine whether a self-radicalized statement posted Monday to Facebook came from Artan. The statement made reference to lone-wolf killers carrying out jihad.
The FBI is working with Columbus Division of Police and Ohio State University campus police to investigate the attack. Byers said “immense resources” are being brought to bear on the investigation.
At a press conference Wednesday, Byers asked anyone with credible information about Artan’s whereabouts before he carried out the 9:52 a.m. attack to call 800-CALL-FBI. Authorities need help filling in a several hour gap between when Artan bought a knife at a Walmart near his home and when OSU security cameras picked up his arrival on campus in a silver Honda registered to his brother.
It is unclear if Artan used the Walmart knife in the attack, police said.
The 20-year-old Artan, who was in his first semester at OSU, was not previously known to federal authorities, according to law enforcement. There is also no indication he knew his victims.
A preliminary autopsy report released Wednesday by the Franklin County Coroner’s office showed Artan died of a gunshot wound to the head and chest.
Byers said authorities have searched Artan’s car and home, seized several electronic devices and interviewed family members, neighbors and co-workers.
Artan immigrated to the U.S. in 2014 with his mother and siblings after they had spent years in a refugee camp in Pakistan. No one answered the door Wednesday at the family apartment.
None of the injuries suffered by the victims, ranging from stab wounds to broken bones, were life-threatening. One bystander was shot in the foot by what authorities believe was an errant round from Horujko.
Police have said they don’t believe the fire alarm was triggered by an accomplice, but was in response to a report of a flourine leak. Because of the timing, however, dozens of people were standing outside Watts Hall when Artan aimed the moving vehicle toward the crowd of people, then opened the car door and began cutting people with a butcher knife.
One of the victims, Andy Payne, is an Army veteran who initially thought the driver lost control of the car and went to help those who were hit. When Artan turned to attack him, Payne, a Graham High School graduate and the father of three children, said he grabbed the knife with his left hand and was sliced across the entire palm and into the thumb.
He underwent surgery on Monday.
“When he got out of the vehicle he was angry,” Payne told this newspaper. “It wasn’t like I was trying to tackle him or take him out or anything. I was just trying to keep the knife from hitting me.”
Horujko was in the area because of the report of a gas leak. He ordered Artan to drop the knife multiple times and when he refused, he shot and killed him, police said.
Horujko, 28, who joined the OSU force in January 2015, is in good spirits and “hanging in there,” said OSU Public Safety Director Monica Moll.
The police-involved shooting is still under investigation.