CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A recent University of North Carolina graduate was charged with nine counts of attempted murder Saturday, a day after authorities say he drove through a popular campus gathering spot in an attempt to avenge Muslim deaths.
Derek Poarch, chief of the university police department, confirmed Saturday that Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a 22-year-old Iran native, told investigators he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world." Poarch would not provide any other details on the motive.
Taheri-azar also is charged with nine counts of assault.
No one was seriously hurt in the incident just before noon Friday at The Pit, a sunken, brick-paved area surrounded by two libraries, a dining hall and the student union near the center of campus.
The area has broad walkways that can be used as fire lanes, but it has no streets. Taheri-azar drove a Jeep Cherokee from a parking lot in almost a U-shape through a cluster of off-street buildings, looping past the dining hall and veering between it and one of the libraries before he reached a side road and sped away, Poarch said.
Five students and a visiting scholar were treated at and released from hospitals, the university said in a statement. Three other people declined treatment, police said.
Taheri-azar is being held on a $5.5 million bond. He was scheduled appear in court Monday. Poarch would not say whether Taheri-azar had an attorney.
Taheri-azar, who called police to surrender and then awaited officers on a street two miles from campus, is cooperating with investigators, Poarch said. The FBI has also interviewed him, but Poarch said he did not know whether he would be federally charged.
Taheri-azar told police Friday that they would find things inside his apartment in nearby Carrboro that would shed light on his motives, Poarch said. The State Bureau of Investigation searched the apartment with a bomb squad, but Poarch said they didn't find anything dangerous.
Poarch declined to say what evidence was found but said Taheri-azar's roommates have cooperated and are not suspects.
"There is no indication whatsoever that he acted in any way other than alone," Poarch said.
Taheri-azar graduated from the university in December after studying psychology and philosophy. Investigators believe he has spent most of his life in the United States, Poarch said.