The family of the 18-year-old UC Merced student who stabbed four people before being shot and killed by campus police expressed sympathy Tuesday for the victims and said they were grieving the loss of their son.
In the first public statement since the Nov. 4 attack, family members of Faisal Mohammad said they wished to thank friends who provided “their support in this time of grief.”
“We also want to express our deepest sympathy to the victims on campus at UC Merced.
“Faisal was a kind and respectful young man. He was always quiet and humble and excelled in school and academics. His teachers and friends always spoke well of him.”
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The statement was released by Daniel Mayfield, an attorney who said he was representing the Santa Clara family pro bono. Mayfield, who is based in San Jose, said he did not know the Mohammad family before the attack, but had worked previously with members of the area’s Muslim community and had been recommended to them.
He declined to provide identifying information about the family. Mohammad’s parents, he said, were immigrants from Pakistan. The teen and his two sisters, one older and one younger, were all born in the United States.
Mohammad wounded four people at UC Merced in an attack that law enforcement authorities said was fueled by his anger over having been kicked out of a study group. The freshman computer science and engineering student, who had turned 18 just 10 days before the attack, was found to be carrying a two-page handwritten note that spelled out his plan to take students hostage, summon campus police and steal an officer’s firearm, which he then planned to use to kill students at a dormitory.
The note made no connection to a political or religious motive for the attack, according to Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke. On Monday, the sheriff’s office said the criminal investigation of the attack would be led by UC Merced campus police and the FBI based on “new information” that had emerged. A law enforcement officer who spoke to the Sun-Star on condition of anonymity said the new details included news that a printout of an image of an Islamic State flag was found among Mohammad’s belongings and questions about how he was dressed during the attack and about websites he visited prior to Nov. 4.
What, if any, significance the new findings might have is unclear and remains under investigation, the official said.
On Tuesday, Muslim students of UC Merced gathered to discuss the attack and come up with ideas on how they could better communicate with the wider community. Members of the Muslim Student Association said they will continue to set up a table on campus where they could interact with other students and answer any questions about Islam.
“There is so much misconception that we definitely want to facilitate and be open to people seeking knowledge,” Hashmat Khorsand, a senior, said after the closed-door meeting.
“We feel there’s a lot of ignorance in the community and the only way to break that is by sharing knowledge,” he said.
Homza Al-Ariemy, a senior who is president of the group, said the days since the attack have been stressful.
“Reading comments and negative remarks from the outside community is very hurtful and it made it more stressful for us as a Muslim community on campus,” Al-Ariemy said.
Al-Ariemy has said no one active in the student group had known Mohammad. The leader of the Islamic Center of Merced similarly has said Mohammad is not known to have attended the mosque.
A joint statement issued by the FBI and the UC Merced Police Department on Tuesday said they continue to investigate the attack, which “occurred without warning or advance indication.”
The FBI had no “derogatory information” about Mohammad prior to Nov. 4, the statement said. “He was not the subject of an FBI investigation, and he was not located in FBI files prior to this incident.”
Authorities have provided all available information to support a comprehensive investigation “that will provide answers, not assumptions,” it said.
“The FBI is in search of answers and will not speculate about a motive.”
Mohammad’s plan to attack fellow students was disrupted when a construction worker heard screams coming from a second-floor classroom, where the teen had stabbed one classmate. The 31-year-old man, Byron Price, barged in to find Mohammad wielding a 10-inch knife. The teen stabbed Price and fled. Outside the class, he stabbed a male student and a female university employee before he ran to a bridge, where he was shot and killed by campus police. All four stabbing victims were expected to recover. Only the university employee, whose name has not been released, remained hospitalized Tuesday.
Mayfield said Mohammad’s family is grief-stricken and has asked for privacy.
“They’re devastated. They’re paralyzed,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s no other term for it. Regardless of what the circumstances are, the losing of a child has got to be the hardest thing any parent can go through.”
“At a time like this,” the statement said, “our family, like any family, requests privacy. Please allow us to grieve and remember our son, brother, cousin and friend in private.”
Rob Parsons contributed to this story.