A University of Waterloo student was studying with a group of friends when he received a text from another friend that someone was ‘running around with a couple of blades attacking people.’
After some quick discussion, they decided to barricade the entrance of the room where they were studying.
Eventually, he saw the Waterloo Regional Police Service arresting an individual, who is believed to have attacked three people with a knife during a gender studies class.
According to Superintendent Shaena Morris, officers received a call about a stabbing incident at the university at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The attack allegedly took place inside Hagey Hall, one of the many art buildings on campus.
Speaking alongside Morris at the news briefing, Nick Manning, the university’s associate vice president of communications, said a ‘Phil 202’ lecture on gender issues was underway at the time of the incident.
Officials confirmed that the suspected assailant was a member of the University of Waterloo community, though they did not elaborate on whether or not he was a student.
According to one eye-witness, Jinming Li, who was present in the ‘Phil 202’ class, the suspected attacker looked like he was in his 20s or 30s.
Three people were injured in the stabbing attack, including two students and the professor. They were transferred to a local hospital, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
How the Incident Unfolded
According to reports, the assailant entered the classroom on the first floor of the building and asked the professor what the lecture was about. He subsequently closed the door, took two blades out from his bag, and stabbed the professor. Students desperately rushed for the room’s exit, many of whom were crying.
Another witness, Yusuf Kaymak, who was present in the classroom when the stabbing happened, said another student was attacked after they ran out of the room and that blood was dripping down his arm.
A little over half an hour later, police finally arrived at the scene alongside mental health counselors. The university also tweeted that there was ‘no further threat’ to the community. Those who were inside Hagey Hall were told to leave the building, which remained closed for the rest of the day.
Failure of the University’s Emergency Notification System
The University of Waterloo has an emergency notification system called ‘WatSAFE’, which is designed to alert students about potential emergencies on campus. Despite the system being tested a day prior to the incident, several people noted that they did not receive a notification about the attack.
One faculty member, James Skidmore, shared on Twitter that while he received a notification about the stabbing, it didn’t appear until 90 minutes after he saw a group of SWAT police on campus.
Another professor, Emmett Macfarlane, described the emergency notification system as ‘a disaster’ and said she did not receive any message on the app.
Update: The attacker Identified as 24-year-old Geovanny Villalba-Aleman
Waterloo Regional Police has identified the assailant as 24-year-old international student Geovanny Willalba-Aleman.
According to officials, he was studying at the university at the time of the attack. He currently faces four counts of assault with a weapon, three counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of possession of a dangerous weapon.
Officials believe the suspect specifically targeted a gender studies class and that the attack was hate-motivated.
According to WRPS, approximately 40 students were in the classroom during the stabbing. The three injured in the attack include the professor, a 38-year-old woman, and two students, a 19-year-old man, and a 20-year-old woman.
The suspect was subsequently located by police within Haley Hall and was arrested. He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday for a bail hearing.