Man, 24, charged in ‘hate-motivated’ stabbing incident at University of Waterloo

A 24-year-old international student has been arrested in connection with the stabbings at the University of Toronto. Waterloo Regional Police say this was a planned attack. Kaitlin Lee with the latest.

A 24-year-old is facing 10 charges in connection with the stabbing of three individuals at the University of Waterloo on Wednesday.

Geovanny Villalba-Alema, an international student who has been studying at the university, is facing three counts of aggravated assault, four counts of assault with a weapon, two counts of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and mischief under $5,000.

Waterloo Regional Police said a 38-year-old female professor, a 20-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man – both students, were stabbed inside a classroom at the university’s Hagey Hall around 3:30 p.m.

Police said there were roughly 40 students inside the classroom when the stabbings took place.

All three were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police say the attack was a “hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity.”

“The accused was not a member of the class but spoke with the professor in the classroom before attacking her with two large knives without provocation,” said police chief Mark Crowell.

Some students tried to stop the attack by throwing chairs and other objects at the suspect, police said. The suspect then tried to pose as a victim, but police said he was quickly identified and arrested in the building where the stabbing occurred.

The suspect was arrested in the building and appeared for a bail hearing on Thursday, where police requested he be held in custody.

Crowell said there is no information to suggest the suspect coordinated the attack with anyone else but investigators are not ruling anything out in understanding the motivations behind the incident.

“The 2SLGBTQIA+ community we believe was targeted broadly and at large here – we don’t believe that the individuals themselves were targeted for that purpose but we believe that the class subject was of interest to the suspect,” he said.

Crowell said the attack is both “sad and disturbing” in that it occurred during Pride month.

“I know in speaking with policing partners across Canada this has been a troubling and disturbing trend, especially during Pride month. We all know that there’s a polarization in society right now, both online and in the real world, and there’s conversations that are spilling over into everyday life and so I can say that we have seen in our community a small uptick in events recently related to targeting the Pride 2SLGBTQIA+ community and hate-motivated incidents.”

Disquieted students questioned why it took hours for them to receive an emergency alert on what had happened.

“I was completely shocked,” Mara Crassweller, a graduate student, said while sitting Thursday inside the hall where the stabbings took place.

Classes had resumed but the campus was largely deserted the morning after the stabbings.

“I’m here every day and I haven’t seen it this quiet in a very long time,” said Crassweller. “It’s kind of eerie, especially in this building right now.”

Crassweller said it took about three hours for her to receive an emergency alert from the university in the aftermath of the stabbings.

Brianna Egan, a 23-year-old accounting student, said her class in the same building as the gender studies lecture let out minutes before Wednesday’s stabbing.

“(It) was a bit terrifying to be honest, especially with how long it took the university to respond,” she said.

James Rush, the university’s vice president, acknowledged there was a delay in the school’s emergency alert system after it did not activate as quickly as expected, despite being tested earlier that day. He adds the school is conducting a review.

Rush added there would be speculation about the motive of Wednesday’s attack.

“We must be patient and have confidence in the judicial process. I urge you to focus your energy on supporting one another during this very traumatic time,” he said in a bulletin posted to the university website.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack, which took place in a gender studies class, “horrifying and unacceptable.”

University President Vivek Goel said the campus community was coming to grips with Wednesday’s attack and encouraged the use of mental health supports being offered by the school.

The university says it will hold a gathering among the campus community on Thursday afternoon “in recognition of the shocking attack and trauma we endured yesterday.” A moment of silence will be held at 3:37 p.m.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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