A University graduate with at least one prior arrest careened a rented silver Jeep Grand Cherokee through the Pit about noon Friday, striking nine pedestrians and sending six to UNC Hospitals with minor injuries.
Mohammed Reza Taheriazar, 22, who formerly lived at 3125 English Sparrow Lane in Charlotte and who graduated in 2005, was taken from the Department of Public Safety to Orange County Jail at 6:20 p.m.
He had a grim smirk on his face as he was escorted out.
Taheriazar was born May 5, 1983, according to University records. He was a psychology and philosophy major and was cited in The Charlotte Observer for dean's list honors in spring 2005. He is still listed as a senior in the UNC print directory.
The Pit incident was just the start of a long afternoon of tension. 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.
A bomb threat was called into the buiding where Taheriazar is believed to now live. 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.
"I just heard a muffled bang, and everyone just went over there to look," said Josh Curd, 26, a resident of building D. "There is no smoke - no evidence of any destruction I can see."
Booker said the Smith Level threat is related to the campus incident. All buildings have been cleared, and police encourage residents not to return to the complex.
"To my knowledge, the only person involved is being dealt with on (campus police's) end," he said. "This person obviously has roommates, but there's no reason to believe they were involved."
University Commons apartments typically house four people. Booker said Taheriazar has two roommates, one a UNC student and one a student at a local community college.
Officials are trying to get one of the roommates to return to the apartment.
Chapel Hill police spokeswoman Jane Cousins said a Mohammed Reza Taheri-Azar has a prior arrest. He was arrested June 16, 2003, on one count of resisting arrest and reckless driving.
According to Charlotte police records, a Mohamed Dahran Taheri, who has the same Charlotte address as the one University records list for Taheriazar, was arrested on April 15, 1999, on charges of operating a vehicle without a license and reckless driving with intent to endanger. Both charges were dismissed.
It is unclear whether Taheri and Taheriazar are the same person. Taheri's birth date, for example, is listed as March 5, 1982 - not May 5. Police records, however, state that no other person named Mohammed is listed as a resident of 3125 English Sparrow Lane in Charlotte
Taheri and whoever lived with him moved away from Sparrow Lane before 2004, said the nanny for the current tenants.
DPS spokesman Randy Young declined comment on the investigation into past priors and said he did not know Taheriazar's birth date.
Six victims were transported to UNC Hospitals after the incident in the Pit, including a 20-year-old woman suffering from a head injury and a 42-year-old man suffering from road rash. Five of the victims were students. One was a visiting scholar.
Stephanie Crayton, hospitals spokeswoman, said she does not anticipate that any of the victims will be admitted.
Sophomore Tiffany McDole and junior Jeff Hoffman were among those hit.
"I see everyone kind of part because there's a car coming through … and the next thing I know, I'm on his windshield," Hoffman said afterward. His arm was bandaged, but he was OK.
According to reports on the scene, the vehicle entered the Pit through the walkway between Greenlaw Hall and Lenoir Dining Hall, traveled east through the Pit and exited between Lenoir and Davis Library. Skid marks were visible at the corner of Lenoir and Greenlaw.
"He hit one person - I remember he just hit him, and the guy just flew," said junior Michael Highland, who was at the scene. "A few others got hit partially. I and some other people ran after it to get a license plate. But he was too far away. We ran after him to see where he went."
Taheriazar was apprehended at Plant Road shortly after the incident, as several people in the Pit were able to supply the suspect's driver's license tags to police.
Capt. Brian Curran with the Chapel Hill police said Taheriazar called 911 on himself.
"He kinda gave himself up," said Herbert Bryant, a DPS officer.
The vehicle, with N.C. license plate number TXH-2669, was a rented from an East Franklin Street Enterprise car rentals location on Thursday, said Laura Bryant, spokeswoman for Enterprise.
There was a laptop in the front seat of the car, which has been impounded.
Several high-ranking University officials, including Young and UNC spokeswoman Lisa Katz, met at 1 p.m. to discuss the incident. They convened a press conference a little after 2:45 p.m.
Capt. George Hare of DPS said at a University press conference that the investigation is ongoing.
Hare said police will charge Taheriazar with "at least" multiple felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The car is the weapon in the assault.
"This assault … is not a traffic accident. It's an assault."
"Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be involved, but we haven't confirmed that," he added.
A professor who taught Taheriazar, Gordon Pitz, said his main impression of Taheriazar was that of a studious learner who was never afraid to seek out information and talk about his ideas.
"He was active and involved with the material," said Pitz, who taught Taheriazar last school year in Psychology 135.
Among other Pit occupants, Black Student Movement elections candidates were in the popular campus gathering spot at noon.
"He slowly came in, and I thought he was going to stop or something," said sophomore Scott Wilson, who was campaigning for BSM vice president. "But then he sped right through."
The scene was frantic, with hundreds of students and community members struggling to find out what happened.
Senior Foster Kyei said Taheriazar entered the Pit slowly, then accelerated through the main section in front of Lenoir.
"I heard the engine rev as he came through the Pit," said junior Tyler Daluz. "He didn't stop at all."
"I heard 'bump, bump, bump.' He was nailing people," said Zach Ludington, a junior, who is friends with Hoffman. "People weren't even screaming that much. It was so ridiculous."
Officers had the scene cleared at 12:16 p.m., roping off the entirety of the Pit with police tape.
"I'm trying to figure out why you would do something like that. Maybe you're mad at the University and you're taking it out on the students," Highland said. "It was just completely random."
UNC tailback Barrington Edwards was on the scene. He said he was standing near the Pit when he went inside Lenoir.
"If I hadn't gone in to get a drink, I'd have been run over," Edwards said.
Other students expressed similar experiences.
"I almost got it, too," said senior Foster Kyei.
Student affairs staff and counselors have been providing support to students who watched the scene unfold. Faculty, staff and students may seek counseling assistance from the University's Counseling and Psychological Services by calling 966-3658.
The incident comes a little more than a week after two students fell from Stacy Residence Hall. One, Keith Shawn Smith, died in the accident.
Responding to that fact, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Jablonski said, "Any time we lose a member of our community, that's a very tragic event for us. … We do believe that our community is hurting right now."
[edited by J]