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 to 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.
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