Family Of Man Charged In UNC 'Pit' Incident Releases Statement
Posted March 24, 2006 4:11 a.m. EST
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The man who told authorities he drove a SUV into a crowd of students at UNC three weeks ago appeared in court. After the hearing, family members said they are shocked by their loved one's actions and words.
Mohammed Taheri-azar, 22, appeared to laugh during a hearing earlier in the day as witnesses described the attack on the university's flagship campus.
Taheri-Azar told investigators that he drove through the crowd at the Pit, a popular gathering spot on campus, because he wanted to kill people as payback for the killing of Muslims around the world.
Laila Taheri-Azar, Mohammed's older sister, told reporters that her brother was an average guy who liked to fish and camp with his friends and he also followed NASCAR.
"Please let us echo in your ears that my brother was and always has been a kind, gentle and pure soul," she said. "His current actions and words are as much a source of shock and distress to us as they are to you."
In court Friday, family members of Taheri-Azar sat in the courtroom as four students took the stand to discuss what happened on March 3. Taheri-azar, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, appeared to be reading the Quran during much of the hearing and seemed to laugh at times during testimony.
UNC freshman Alex Slater said he had just finished lunch that day and was walking to class when he noticed the SUV in the area.
"He rolled up right next to us and I looked inside the car and there is the driver, and he just stepped on the gas and turned the wheel," he said. "He just floored it right through the pit."
Taheri-Azar faces nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. The Orange County district attorney told WRAL he plans on sending Taheri-Azar's case to a grand jury for indictment.
Taheri-Azar is currently held at Central Prison. Officials said he is isolated from other inmates and lives alone in his cell.