CANBERRA, Australia – A student was detained by police after assaulting his teacher and three of his fellow students with a baseball bat on Friday in a classroom at the Australian National University, police said.
Shortly after 9 a.m., the student stood up from his seat with a bat and approached the teacher at the front of the classroom, the Australian Capital Police said. Other students in the class intervened and tried to restrain the attacker, but he assaulted four people, including the teacher. Police were called to the school and took the assailant into custody, Police Detective Superintendent Ben Cartwright said.
During the assault, one student managed to take the bat away from the attacker and run away with it, Cartwright told reporters. The attacker, an 18-year-old man, had no other weapons on him, Cartwright said. He was not on the radar of police or intelligence agencies, and his motivation is unknown.
The four people who were wounded were taken to a hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries, Cartwright said.
Max Claessens, an 18-year-old student whose friend was inside the classroom, said his friend told him that the attacker waited until the class had settled in before he suddenly pulled a cricket or baseball bat out of his bag and began hitting people. The attacker had been a student of the statistics class for four weeks, Claessens said.
“One of the students just randomly out of the blue got up with a bat, struck out at two or three students, before apparently going for the teacher,” Claessens said. “And obviously people were in a bit of shock so they ran out to get help before the guy – who wasn’t coming down and was going a bit crazy, to be honest –was restrained.”
The student had not previously drawn anyone’s suspicions, Claessens said.
“It was just out of the blue. Nothing seemed strange about him,” Claessens said. “I’m a bit surprised, to be honest. I didn’t expect something like this to happen. You can’t exactly anticipate someone picking up a cricket bat in a statistics class.”
Student Jolene Laverty was on her way to a lecture when she saw the assailant being led away by police and several of the injured being treated by paramedics.
“There was a man on a stretcher who was being offered morphine, so obviously in a lot of pain with a lot of blood coming from his head,” Laverty said. “And a lot of people in shock as well. A lot of people getting blankets put over them and being looked after by the staff and emergency services.”
The attacker was being escorted by two police officers and was talking to them calmly, she said.
The university’s Deputy Vice Chancelor, Marni Hughes-Warrington, said she was moved by the courage shown by the students who tried to stop the attack.
“I’m delighted and unsurprised to see such acts of bravery –we know one another, we really care for one another,” she told reporters. “This is an isolated and random incident that’s happened in a very caring community. This is a very unusual thing.”
The university, which is located in Australia’s capital, Canberra, said counseling services were being provided to anyone affected by the attack. Police said there was no ongoing threat to the public’s safety.
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