Driver in Pit Incident Acted to Punish U.S., He Says
The 2005 UNC graduate accused of driving a Jeep SUV through an area near the Pit just before noon
on March 3, striking nine people, said he is
prepared to spend the rest of his life in jail.
"If Allah wills, I will plead guilty to all 18
charges currently against me and I expect a
life term in prison," Mohamm.ed Reza
Taheri-azar wrote in a letter to TI1e News
& Observer of Raleigh.
Taheri-azar, 22, is listed in alunmi
records as having earned degrees last year in
psychology and philosophy. He faces nine
counts of attempted
and nine counts of
assault with a deadly
serious iqjury with
intent to kill. After
striking the people,
he then drove away .
and called 911 and sur- Taherl-azar
rendered to police near University Mall,
about two miles from the campus.
In his 911 call, Taheri-azar said his
actions were meant "to punish the
government of the United States for their actions
around the world." As of late April,
Taheri-azar was being held in Central Prison in
Raleigh under a $5.5 million bond.
UNC Director of Public Safety Derek
Poarch said he believed Taheri-azar acted
to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around
the world" and that he appears to have
Of the nine people struck, three
declined treatment and six were taken to
UNC Hospitals. All were treated and
released that day. The area where the inci-
dent took place, between the Pit and
Lenoir Dining Hall, is a popular student
gathering place, usually crowded at midday.
According to The Associated Press,
Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, "allegedly
made statements that he acted to avenge
the American treatment of Muslims," FBI
Special Agent Richard Kolko said.
A witness said Taheri-azar approached
the Pit area from the west, apparently
struck some people between the Pit and
Lenoir, turned the corner at Lenoir and
accelerated into a crowd on the dining
hall's east side, striking others in the area
between Lenoir and Davis Library.
"I had just left the tables right there at
the front of Lenoir, had been talking to
friends," said Matthew Bowles, a junior
frOlTl Greensboro."I was walking through
that walkway between Davis and Lenoir. I
was right in the middle of that walkway. I
saw him hit at least one person. At that
point I was so confused. I saw people
between me and him start running toward
a brick planter - I ran over there to jump
up out of the way."
Bowles said the driver then turned onto
Emerson Drive, which runs to the east of
Hamilton and Caldwell halls, and drove
north, the wrong way on one-way Emerson.
Carrboro police later evacuated the University Commons apartment where Taheri-azar lived, acting on information from the
suspect that raised concerns about public
safety in the vicinity of the apartments.
Agents of the FBI and local bomb
squads were called. Residents of the apartments were allowed back in that night.
The N&O reported that the
University's Muslim Students Association said he
was not a member of the organization.
The incident elicited varied responses.
The Muslim Student Association quickly
condemned it as an act of violence, which
violates the values Muslims hold dear.
A small group of students held a rally in
the Pit calling for UNC administrators to
label it an act of terrorism. Others were
more reluctant to associate that word with
It was not the first time this semester
that UNC became absorbed in discussions
about politics and religion.
On Feb. 9, The Daily Tar Heel published
an original cartoon depicting the Prophet
Muhanunad. The cartoon came at a time
when thousands of Muslims in parts of Asia
and Africa were protesting another drawing
of the prophet that first appeared in a Dan-
ish publication. Islamic tradition forbids
visual depictions of Muhanunad and considers such inuges to be blasphemous.
There is no indication the incident in
the Pit was related to The DTHs cartoon.
The cartoon did, however, initiate con-
troversy on and off the campus of UNC in
February, provoking a debate that questioned the relationship between absolute
freedom of expression and concerns for
Read these stories in detail
in From The Hill Online at alunmi.unc.edu
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