Warrant: Attack was planned - Jihadist rented SUV because it "Could run over things and keep going"
March 20, 2006
53 p.m| Warrant: SUV attack at UNC planned
The man accused in last week's Chapel Hill SUV assault started thinking about "some type of attack" two years ago and told police he was disappointed a UNC campus hangout wasn't more crowded when he drove through it, according to a warrant application investigators released Tuesday.
The suspect, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, had a five-inch folding knife and two cans of pepper spray with him in case he was attacked or threatened during the assault, the court document says.
Investigators are slowly revealing details of evidence they've collected on Taheri-azar, 22, who's being held in Raleigh's Central Prison.
Prosecutors charged him with nine counts of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. He could face 150 years in prison on the state charges.
"He's charged with some very serious crimes," Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Tuesday, noting the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies are involved. "It's a high profile case."
Taheri-azar, who was born in Iran, grew up in Charlotte, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools records. He attended CMS since he was at least 5 years old and graduated from South Mecklenburg High in 2001. He graduated from UNC with a double major in December.
Chapel Hill police arrested Taheri-azar around noon Friday, minutes after a rented Jeep Cherokee drove through the middle of UNC's campus and hit nine people. Six went to the hospital with minor injuries.
Police raided Taheri-azar's apartment hours later on Friday, seizing several items, including a letter from Taheri-azar that explains his actions, according to a list of seized items that was also released Tuesday. Police also took two Navy SEAL combat course videos, a gun permit application, two cell phones and a computer from the Carrboro apartment.
Taheri-azar told police he planned this specific attack two months ago because he wanted to avenge U.S. government actions against Muslims, according to the warrant application.
Taheri-azar's attack was "an eye for an eye" and he rented the SUV so he could "run over things and keep going," the warrant application says.
Woodall said he believes Taheri-azar's mother is a U.S. government translator who works in Afghanistan and that she's returning to North Carolina because of her son's arrest. The district attorney said he didn't know the mother's name.
But federal officials said they couldn't confirm that Tuesday. In an e-mail to the Observer, FBI spokesman Ken Lucas says the bureau has "no indication at this time that the mother is a federal government employee."
Woodall said he doesn't expect any substantive changes in Taheri-azar's case for a couple months. For now, he's being held in "safekeeping" -- a status that allows Central Prison's warden to evaluate whether he should be allowed to interact with the maximum security prison's general population, said state corrections spokesman Keith Acree.
Taheri-azar eats meals in his cell and can have a copy of the Quran, Acree said.
Staff writers Mark Johnson, Tim Funk and Celeste Smith contributed