Minutes before he stabbed a classmate and three others on Nov. 4, Faisal Mohammad was seen sitting on his bed, staring silently out the window of his dorm room at UC Merced, according to a statement his roommate gave to investigators.
Ali Elsheikh told a Merced County sheriff’s detective he woke up at 7:17 that morning and noticed the 18-year-old Mohammad sitting on the edge of his bed, the hood of his sweater pulled over his head, his backpack on his back.
“Mohammad did not say anything; he was just staring out the window,” according to a summary filed by Detective Jose Silva and obtained by the Sun-Star on Thursday. When Elsheikh left for his on-campus job about 20 minutes later, his roommate remained in the same spot, “not saying anything, just staring out the window.”
Less than 20 minutes later, authorities received a call for help from the campus where Mohammad is said to have gone on a violent rampage in which he wounded two students, a university employee and a private contractor. Soon after 8 a.m. Mohammad was dead, fatally shot by a UC Merced police officer who opened fire when the slender teen lunged toward him with a large knife, authorities said.
Mohammad did not say anything; he was just staring out the window.
Ali Elsheikh, 18, describing his roommate, Faisal Mohammad, on the day of the UC Merced stabbings
The statement recorded by Silva sheds a bit of light on what happened before the computer science freshman began his attack during a morning class.
Authorities who spoke in the days after the bloodshed have said they recovered a two-page, hand-written manifesto in which Mohammad described his anger over having been kicked out of a study group. While Sheriff Vern Warnke said the document included mentions of Allah, a reflection of Mohammad’s Muslim faith, he dismissed any suggestion that the teen’s attack was religiously motivated.
The FBI continues to investigate Mohammad’s attack and has declined to comment on his motives. In a statement issued Nov. 10, the agency said it had no derogatory information on Mohammad prior to the attack. Gina Swankie, public affairs specialist for the bureau in Sacramento, said Monday that the investigation is ongoing. She did not immediately respond to a phone message left Thursday.
In speaking to Silva on Nov. 4, Elsheikh, 18, described Mohammad “as a loner and an extreme Muslim,” according to the detective’s report. Elsheikh “said he too is Muslim but that Mohammad was ‘way out there’ and was not surprised by the incident.”
Elsheikh, whose name is spelled Elshekh in Silva’s report, recalled an incident in which one of his friends asked Mohammad what would happen if he touched the mat he used for praying and Mohammad replied, “I will kill you.”
Elsheikh said he too is Muslim, but that Mohammad was ‘way out there.’
Merced County sheriff’s detective report
Elsheikh told Silva “that is not a normal reaction for a normal Muslim.”
Contacted via email by the Sun-Star on Wednesday, Elsheikh declined a request to speak about his experience.
“Pretty much everything I know was already mentioned,” he wrote.
The inventory of items seized by Silva during a search of the second-floor dorm room included two laptop computers; a two-page manifesto recovered from a garbage can; memory drives; a wrapper for duct tape; large zip ties; a copy of the Quran; a prayer rug; a package containing a balaclava, a head covering similar to a full ski mask; an Amazon box with packaging for a knife and sharpener; a sharpener; a car hammer survival kit package; a cellphone; and two containers of petroleum jelly.
The backpack Mohammad is said to have carried into his attack was reported to contain duct tape, the hammer and bags of petroleum jelly that, according to his step-by-step instructions listed in the manifesto, would be used to create a slippery obstacle for authorities responding to a call for help he planned to fake. Authorities have said Mohammad planned to take a weapon from responding police and then go to a dorm to kill others.