UC Merced freshman Nicholas Sabbatini, a Clovis High School graduate, was in a nearby classroom when violence erupted Wednesday on campus. A male student stabbed three men and a woman before being shot to death by campus police.
Sabbatini was in his English class writing an essay when he heard a man yelling in the hallway.
“It was a scream of agony, a scream of pain,” Sabbatini said. “It was scary.”
Sabbatini said his professor went out to the hallway to give aid to the victim and returned to tell students to lock the door.
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When the professor returned from the hallway, “the look on her face, she was traumatized.”
A little later, Sabbatini and his fellow English students were ushered out of class, weaving their way around police tape.
“We actually had to go through the crime scene,” he said. “We saw two bodies on the ground getting medical attention.”
The ordeal, he said, was traumatizing, and he worried about what could have happened if he had to leave his classroom at the time of the stabbing. He felt more secure as the day wore on, he said, reflecting on how fast police responded and campus officials sent out texts.
“We were all really shocked this happened,” Sabbatini said. “But the police were right on it; I feel they handled it right.”
It’s very terrifying and shocking.
UC Merced student Johnny Yang, a senior biology major from Fresno
Johnny Yang, a UC Merced senior biology major from Fresno, was preparing to catch a bus from his house in Merced to the school around 9:30 a.m. when he checked his phone and saw messages about the on-campus stabbings.
“It’s very terrifying and shocking,” said Yang, a graduate of Fresno High School. “I was confused” and wondering, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
Yang said he and a group of friends often study in the building where the attacks happened. “It kind of gave me the goosebumps,” he said.
Yang’s thoughts then turned to how the stabbings might affect the way future students look at UC Merced. “I hope this doesn’t change that because Merced is a small community and we’re growing.” About 6,000 students are enrolled at the campus east of the city. Of those, nearly a third are from the San Joaquin Valley, according to university data.
Samantha Pizano, a senior biology student from Fresno, gives tours to prospective students and their families. Parents concerned about safety, she said, are relieved to see Merced’s rural location.
“You get to experience a private-school setting with a public-school tuition,” she said. “I tell them about what we have to offer, like no distractions and a smaller student-to-teacher ratio of 20-to-1.”
Visalia resident Seng Alex Vang learned about the stabbings through Facebook and received alerts from the university Wednesday morning. Vang is a lecturer in the UC Merced writing program and is on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the week he teaches at California State University, Stanislaus.
With the recent string of campus shootings across the country, “it wasn’t surprising that it could happen here,” Vang said. “No matter how prepared you are, it can always happen. People are not thinking straight – they may have mental issues, depression. You can never be prepared for that.”
Vang said there seemed to be a lot of confusion among students about what was happening because they were getting information from friends over social media and not checking official notices from the school.