Gentlemen, start your violins. “Family: Alleged UNC campus crasher a ‘kind, gentle soul,'” from AP, with thanks to Doc Washburn:
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) – The man accused of trying to kill nine people by driving through a pedestrian plaza at the University of North Carolina is “a kind, gentle and pure soul” whose action was completely out of character, his family said in a statement Friday.
Yet, Mohammed Taheri-azar, 22, appeared to laugh during a hearing earlier in the day as witnesses described the attack on the university’s flagship campus.
He faces nine charges of attempted murder and nine of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. If convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to about 150 years in prison….
Laila Taheri-Azar, Mohammed’s older sister, said outside Friday’s hearing that her brother was an average person – a NASCAR fan who enjoyed fishing and camping with his friends.
“Please let us echo in your ears that my brother was and always has been a kind, gentle and pure soul,” she read from a statement. “His current actions and words are as much a source of shock and distress to us as they are to you.”
Taheri-azar, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, appeared to be reading the Quran during much of the hearing and seemed to laugh at times during testimony.
Freshman Alex Slater said he had just finished lunch and was walking to class when he noticed a Jeep in the area.
“He rolled up right next to us and I looked inside the car and there is the driver, and he just stepped on the gas and turned the wheel,” Slater said. “He just floored it right through The Pit.”
It should also be emphasized that The Pit is not an area in which one usually drives through. At the center of The Pit area is just that: a pit, a large open area accessible by steps down. I don’t think he could have been driving in that. But even if he was driving around it, his SUV was already far away from anyplace where anyone normally drives — unless the configuration of the UNC campus has changed drastically since I was there.