I’m here for you. This is my home. This is my family.
Those were some of the sentiments expressed by UC Merced students Wednesday night as they gathered in downtown Merced after university police shot and killed a knife-wielding student who stabbed four people on campus early that morning.
Authorities on Thursday identified the suspect as 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad from Santa Clara. The four injured in the stabbings are expected to recover. Investigations are ongoing.
About 80 students were greeted by representatives of Associated Students of UC Merced, pizza and a large room to meet with friends at Vault Works on N Street. They huddled together discussing details of the day, offering rides to other students and clinging to each other in hugs.
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Domonique Jones, president of the associated students, said the gathering was meant to provide a space for students to grieve and meet – things they usually would do on campus.
“The school is our sanctuary, our safe haven,” she said. “When your safe haven is turned into a crime scene, that’s devastating.”
The school is our sanctuary, our safe haven. When your safe haven is turned into a crime scene, that’s devastating.
Domonique Jones, 21, president of the Associated Students of UC Merced
Merced City Council members Mike Murphy and Josh Pedrozo were also there and shared words of support and encouragement. Charles Nies, the university’s interim vice chancellor of student affairs, arrived about 8:30 p.m. Though the campus is set to reopen Friday, that doesn’t mean it will be business as usual, he said.
“An incident like this has changed all of us,” he said. “We can’t deny that we’ve experienced this. It’s important for us to recognize that.”
Nies said that Tuolumne hall, a dormitory that had been evacuated, was reopened and students were allowed to return. He also said 20 grief counselors from throughout the University of California system would be on campus to serve students and faculty in the coming weeks.
Students spoke in an open-mic style, each one bringing up how close-knit the campus is and how unbelievable it was that such a tragic act of violence took place at their beloved school. At times they encouraged those present to link arms with one another or turn to someone and say, “I’m there for you.”
Vanessa Dias, a 20-year-old from Tracy, was working in the library when it was evacuated Wednesday morning. “I stared at students and told them, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ and I didn’t know if it was,” she said, choking back tears.
Students said they didn’t receive much information from the university about the victims or the suspect who was killed. Many students at the gathering Wednesday night said they hadn’t been on campus all day.
“It’s a small campus, and everybody knows everybody,” said Marqose Saephan, a 19-year-old student in his second year. “I sort of don’t want to know the name (of the suspect).”
The Associated Students of UC Merced are working to organize a larger gathering for students on Friday. The group has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for victims’ medical expenses. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/IStandWithUCMerced.
Fresno State invites all UC Merced students, faculty and staff to attend the football game against Nevada on Thursday for free with CatCard ID. Game starts at 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.