Local News

Taheri-azar Wanted To Punish U.S. Govt., He Says In 911 Call

Posted March 6, 2006
Updated December 12, 2006

— A man who authorities said confessed to deliberately hitting nine people on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus told a 911 dispatcher that he committed the act to "punish the government of the United States for [its] actions around the world," according to a 911 call released Monday.

Mohammed Taheri-azar, 22, made the call shortly after he allegedly hit eight students and a visiting professor with a sport utility vehicle Friday afternoon in a common area on campus known as "The Pit."

In the call, he tells the 911 operator that the police could pick him up at the corner of Hillview and Plant roads, where he is waiting outside the vehicle, unarmed.

"You can come arrest me," Taheri-azar said.

When the dispatcher asks why he allegedly ran into the people, Taheri-azar tells him the answer is in a one-page letter on his bed inside his Carrboro apartment.

The 911 call was released the same day that Taheri-azar appeared before an Orange County judge and the same day that some UNC students protested the university's and media's reluctance to call Friday's incident a "terrorist act."

At his first appearance Monday in Orange County District Court, Taheri-azar, a 2005 UNC-CH graduate, told the judge he planned to represent himself and was "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah." He was assigned a public defender, but ignored the lawyer's advice to stop talking and told the judge he would make his own decisions about what to say.

"In this case, they're gonna ultimately allow him to represent himself," District Attorney Jim Woodall said after the hearing. "It's clear to me that that's what he truly wants to do. I anticipate that he will be allowed to represent himself because he made that very clear."

He did not deny driving a rented silver Jeep Grand Cherokee onto the UNC campus and hitting nine people. Six people were taken to UNC Hospitals with non-critical injuries, and three people were treated at the scene.

Smiling and waving as he left court, where he was appointed a public defender, Taheri-azar told reporters, "The truth is my lawyer." When asked if he was trying to kill people, he said yes.

Taheri-azar's sister and a family friend, who were attending the court proceedings, declined to comment.

Although the investigation is ongoing, authorities believe Taheri-azar acted alone and they didn't know of any groups with which he may be associated. The FBI is investigating the case, but has not commented on whether Taheri-azar will face federal charges for his alleged actions.

Was It Terrorism? Students Debate

Until then, local authorities have declined to label the attack an act of terrorism, leading some UNC student groups to demonstrate Monday in the same location where Friday's attacks occurred. They urged UNC authorities and the media to label the attack as an act of terror.

"This kid wanted to kill a lot of people," said Kris Wampler, with the UNC College Republicans. "He attacked noncombatants and students."

Several students who were watching the demonstration argued that while they don't agree with Taheri-azar's actions, those actions do not necessarily make him a terrorist.

"Not only did he fail, he failed miserably and has become a laughing stock," said UNC student Evan Hughes. "I don't think that terrorism fits."

About 50 students attended the "anti-terrorism" rally, including a group of Muslim students who debated with organizers and said Taheri-azar had not been linked to any terrorist group.

"When you think of terms of a global context, this was an isolated incident," said Khurram Bilal Tariq.

Stephen Mann said he wasn't singling out Islam with his call to label the act terrorism. He said a driver of any religion who did what Taheri-azar is accused of should be called a terrorist.

"If you try to hurt someone in the name of a cause, that's terrorism," he said.

Student Staci Griner said the incident was unsettling for UNC students.

"You feel kind of removed from the bigger attacks, like 9/11, because they're not in your immediate town. We walk around and meet people and never think it's one of our own," she said. "I feel like the whole world is falling apart."

In an e-mail message sent to the UNC community Sunday night, Chancellor James Moeser said it was important for "our community to pull together, remain calm and offer comfort and assistance to one another."

Moeser said he is also consulting with campus leaders to develop an appropriate campus event to deal with the incident after spring break.

Taheri-azar remains in Central Prison under a $5.5 million bond. He is charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill.

Woodall said Taheri-Azar faces as many as 150 years behind bars if convicted.


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