“Yo, there’s someone running around with two blades attacking people,” a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, reportedly texted his friend on Wednesday afternoon.
The person was studying with a group of students at Hagey Hall when they received the startling news and explained that they had decided to barricade the door of the room where they were studying.
Ultimately, CTV News reportedHe waited in the room where he was studying until the student saw officers from the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) arrest a person believed to be responsible for the stabbing of three people during an early afternoon gender studies class.
Here’s everything we know about the incident, which WRPS Superintendent Shaena Morris said is still under investigation:
Motive remains unclear
At a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Morris said officers responded to a stabbing attack at the University of Waterloo at 3.30pm on Wednesday. She said the attack took place in a classroom at Hagey Hall.
Nick Manning, the university’s associate vice president of communications, spoke next to her and told reporters that a sophomore philosophy class, Phil 202, was in progress at the time. According to the university’s website, Phil 202 is a course on gender issues for second-year students at the university.
Both Ms Morris and Mr Manning confirmed that the alleged attacker was a member of the University of Waterloo community, without specifying the male suspect’s connection to the institution.
According to the University of Waterloo student newspaperan eyewitness present in the class, student Jinming Li said the attacker looked to be in his 20s or 30s.
“I can’t speak to the subject at this time. We are obviously under investigation at this time, but we have investigators who are currently clearing this with our arrested individual,” Ms. Morris said.
Three people – including two students and the professor – were injured in the knife attack. They were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
She added that no charges had yet been filed and declined to comment on any evidence in the ongoing investigation.
How the attack went
According to Li, the attacker entered the room on the first floor of Hagey Hall and asked the professor – who could not be identified – what the lecture was about. He then closed the door, took out two knives from his backpack and attacked the professor while about 40 students left the classroom with only one entrance.
Another student who was in the class at the time of the attack, Yusuf Kaymak, told CTV News, “I ran out, and when we went outside, a kid was stabbed.” He was bleeding [from] his arm. I don’t know what happened to the professor.”
An hour and a half after police arrived on site, the university announced on Twitter that “there is no further threat to our campus community.” Hagey Hall remained vacated and closed for the remainder of the day, reopening for classes at 7 a.m. on Thursday.
Mr Manning told reporters at the press conference the university’s priority – alongside assisting with the ongoing police investigation – is to support the mental health of students and staff.
Counselors were reportedly on site at Hagey Hall and other areas on campus to help those affected by the attack.
“Our entire community is really concerned that something like this could happen here. “It’s a big shock,” Mr Manning told reporters.
failures of emergency alerts
The university’s WatSAFE emergency notification system was tested Wednesday before the attack took place. According to the student newspaper, one of WatSafe’s intended purposes is to alert community members to campus emergencies. However, several people complained that they had not received extremely late notification of the security breach.
One employee, James M. Skidmore, shared a screenshot of a WatSAFE notification on Twitter with the caption: “The WatSAFE app’s first alert on the #uwaterloo knife incident at the University of Waterloo – approximately 90 minutes after I saw SWAT -Police walked past me on campus.” .”
“Emergency Communication @UWaterloo Immediately after this horrific knife attack, disaster struck. We have had no news on the ‘WatSAFE app’ – which was apparently being tested *early this morning* prior to the attack,” tweeted another professor, Emmett Macfarlane.
He also lamented the university’s lack of coordinated communications in the wake of the attack, reporting that several graduate students said “they never *didn’t* receive notification that there had been an attack on campus.”
“If they hadn’t been on Twitter they still wouldn’t have known anything happened at all,” Mr Macfarlane wrote.
When asked about the emergency notification system outages, Mr. Manning told reporters, “Obviously we need to take another look at our emergency notification systems.”
“In any incident, the first thought for everyone involved is the immediate saving of life and safety response, which was the focus today.”
“Everything feels very unsafe”
While police have not commented on the attacker’s motive, academics and faculty members at the University of Waterloo have expressed concern that the gender issues course has been targeted.
The Arcadia University politics professor tweeted: “Today a man barged into a classroom at the University of Waterloo and demanded to know what the class was about.” He then pulled two knives from his jacket and began stabbing the professor. The course was philosophy of gender.”
Aimée Morrison, Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo, tweeted that if true, the course was singled out because of its subject. “Then it’s an ideologically motivated hate crime.”. And it needs to be addressed as such.”