At a Glance - December 5

Lone Offenders Use Weapons of Opportunity

Last week’s attack at Ohio State University, conducted with a car and a butcher knife, shows that unsophisticated extremists without easy access to firearms or explosives are willing to use items such as vehicles and knives. On November 28, Abdul Artan drove his vehicle (see photo) over a curb into a crowd of Ohio State students and then began stabbing people. Although no one was killed, 11 victims were hospitalized.

In its propaganda since 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has encouraged its followers to conduct attacks where they are, with whatever means are available. In the past two months, online ISIS publications have provided instructions for attacks with knives and vehicles. In the most lethal attack of this type, in Nice, France, in July, 86 people were killed when an ISIS supporter rammed a truck into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day. In the United States, since 2014, in addition to the Ohio State University attack, confirmed or suspected terrorist attacks with bladed weapons have been conducted against NYPD officers in Queens in October 2014, at a shopping mall in Minnesota in September 2016, and on the campus of the University of California, Merced, in November 2015. Since a British soldier was run down by a car and stabbed and hacked to death in May 2013, terrorist attacks using vehicles or bladed weapons have occurred in Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Australia. In Israel and the West Bank, more than 30 stabbing or vehicle attacks have been conducted by Palestinian extremists during 2016.

As long as ISIS encouragement for these types of attacks persists, they are likely to continue. Law enforcement can provide security for large events, as demonstrated by NYPD’s massive security operation for the Thanksgiving Day parade—which ISIS had singled out as an “excellent target.” However, smaller-scale events and routine crowds of people anywhere are vulnerable to attacks using vehicles or bladed weapons.

Philadelphia: Explosive Device in Package Was Destructive and Unusual, ATF Says

The explosive device that detonated in a package in an apartment in Center City Philadelphia on November 22 was “a destructive device that caused significant injury to the person and could have resulted in death,” according to Sam Rabadi, the Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). He said it was an unusual device, unlike anything he has ever seen on the East Coast. According to a fundraising website page for the victim, the explosive device was in a large manila envelope addressed to the victim and carefully designed to look like the envelopes in which he receives asthma medication on a regular basis.

Last week, Philadelphia police released surveillance images of a person of interest in the investigation (see photo). The individual dropped off the package at the apartment building, but police say he did not necessarily make the explosive device. Investigators have not yet determined a motive.

School Security: Proactive Parents Prevent Potential Shooting Tragedy

A potential school shooting tragedy was averted in Bountiful, Utah, on December 1 when parents noticed their 15-year-old son behaving strangely, then realized a shotgun and a handgun were missing from the safe in their home, and immediately proceeded to their son’s junior high school. While on their way, they heard a gunshot. The boy had fired one round into the ceiling of a classroom. He also pointed the shotgun at his own neck. The parents arrived as a teacher and one of the 26 students in the room were trying to convince the boy not to fire again. Police say the parents then entered the classroom, were able to grab both weapons, and physically detained their son. No one was injured in the incident. 

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.