Worker a 'hero' for facing attacker at California university

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5 Stabbed On California College Campus, Suspect Shot And Killed

MERCED, Calif. (AP) -- A construction worker who ran into a California university classroom to break up what he thought was a fight is being hailed as a hero for preventing a student armed with a hunting knife from possibly killing his intended target. The attacker was later killed by police.

Byron Price, 31, was working on remodeling a waiting room at the University of California, Merced campus when he heard a commotion Wednesday and rushed to check on it.

The violence left Price and three others injured, but all are expected to survive. The assailant, described as a college student in his 20s, was shot and killed by campus police as he fled the scene.

"I really believe he's a hero here. I think he prevented this first student from dying," Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. "The cops on campus, oh my gosh, praise them because they stopped a threat, but this first guy, he stopped a death."

Two of the injured had to be airlifted to nearby hospitals, and the other two were treated on campus. Authorities didn't release the name of the assailant or his victims.

The incident began when the assailant used a knife to stab two people in a second-floor room around the start of an 8 a.m. class, Warnke said.

"He didn't go in knowing that there was a stabbing taking place. He went in thinking there was a fight," Warnke said during an afternoon news conference.

Warnke said the suspect fled the room after attacking the construction worker and ran down two flights of stairs to the outside where he stabbed a school employee sitting on a bench. The suspect fled the building. He was shot and killed by pursuing campus police on a nearby foot bridge.

Authorities are investigating a motive. Warnke said the knife blade was eight to 10 inches long.

All the victims were conscious when paramedics reached them, Assistant Vice Chancellor Patti Waid said.

Lensy Maravilla, 19, a first-year student, said she was in a biology class on the second floor of the same building, when a female student ran in.

Maravilla said the student "was crying hysterically and came in and said that she had seen somebody get stabbed, or slashed, in the throat and she ran."

The main road to enter the campus remained closed to outside traffic Wednesday night and classes were canceled until Friday at university about 120 miles south of Sacramento in the farm-rich San Joaquin Valley. Police were allowing students who live on campus to come and go, but anxious parents waited in their vehicles at the end of the dark roadway about a half mile from the campus entrance.

Among them were Larry and Yen Little, who drove about 110 miles from their home in Elk Grove to pick up their daughter Dana. Larry Little said he knows incidents of campus violence are rampant.

"I knew someday it might, but I was just hoping it wouldn't happen here. It's a small campus out in the country," said Little. "Thank god the guy didn't have a gun, shooting people, killing them."

See photos from the scene of the University of California, Merced campus stabbing:

19 PHOTOS
University of California Merced stabbing
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Worker a 'hero' for facing attacker at California university
This undated photo provided by the University of California, Merced shows freshman Faisal Mohammad of Santa Clara, California. Authorities say Mohammad burst into a classroom at the California school, stabbing several people before being shot and killed by police, Wednesday. (University of California, Merced via AP)
A Merced County Sheriff officer tells University of California, Merced student Daniel Neff, 21, of Long Beach, to turn around after he tried to enter the campus which is on lockdown following a stabbing in Merced, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. An assailant stabbed five people on the rural university campus in central California before police shot and killed him, authorities said Wednesday. (Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star via AP)
Merced County Sheriff deputies direct traffic out of the University of California, Merced, as the campus is placed on lockdown after a stabbing in Merced, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. An assailant stabbed five people as students headed to class at the rural university campus in central California before police shot and killed him, authorities said. (Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star via AP)
Merced County Sheriff SWAT members enter the University of California, Merced campus after a reported stabbing in Merced, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. An assailant stabbed five people on the rural university campus in central California before police shot and killed him, authorities said Wednesday. (Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star via AP)
Students leave the University of California, Merced campus after it was placed on lockdown following a stabbing in Merced, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. An assailant stabbed five people on the rural university campus in central California before police shot and killed him, authorities said Wednesday. (Andrew Kuhn/Merced Sun-Star via AP)
UCM Alert: Stabbing reported in COB. Police responding. Please avoid the area. https://t.co/omeHq9QQKz
Update: Campus is locked down. Do not come to campus. If you're on campus, stay where you are.
Though there is no active danger, getting on and off campus is difficult. Please stay where you are.
Update: Campus is closed. Classes are canceled. Do not come to campus. #ICYMI
#UPDATE: First responders at @ucmerced campus. Stabbing suspect "apprehended." https://t.co/8FfVVnafoF
#UPDATE: witnesses tell me they saw @ucmerced suspect running across bridge wearing dark clothes and hoodie or beanie as police shot him.
All UC Merced students want our school to get on the map for all the great things we do but not for this evil. #PrayForUCM
Thoughts and prayers go out to @ucmerced.
#BREAKING male suspect stabbed another male in neck in room 209 at @ucmerced today says CHP.
UC Merced officials say the situation is contained, but the lockdown on campus is still in effect. The stabbing happened before 8 am @ABC30
There was a stabbing at my school this morning. I really hope the victim(s) are safe. Stay strong Bobcats. #UCMerced
What happened to school being a "safe environment"? What is happening mann. Heart goes out to UC Merced.
1 of 2) Rep. Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, on UC-Merced incident: “Today’s shocking acts of violence are a parent’s worst nightmare come true.
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Stabbings involving multiple victims on college campuses have not raised as much alarm as mass shootings since the attacks do not usually result in as many deaths or injuries. Several U.S. colleges have been the site of violent attacks involving bladed weapons.

A student at Morgan State University in Maryland was charged in March with slashing two other students with a pocket knife outside a campus dining hall. In 2013, a 20-year-old student at a Texas community college wounded at least 14 people during a building-to-building attack.

The campus with about 6,000 students in the city of Merced opened a decade ago and is the newest one in the University of California system.

It was erected in the state's farm belt in response to the burgeoning enrollment in the nine other University of California campuses. Regents also felt the mainly agricultural region was unrepresented by higher education.

Applications to University of California campuses are due at the end of November. Chancellor Dorothy Leland sought to reassure families that their children would be safe if they ended up at UC Merced, which she said "may still be small in its study body but is large in its sense of community."

"This was a tragic accident, a tragic event, OK? But the person who caused this event will no longer be able to cause an event in the future. Their children are safe here," Leland said.

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