Video: Father hails son for confronting UC Merced attacker
John Price didn't want to call his son, Byron, a hero for charging into a University of California, Merced classroom Wednesday to break up what he thought was an unruly fight.
What construction worker Byron Price, 31, found instead was an 18-year-old student charging at him with a hunting knife nearly 10 inches long.
Byron Price would later tell his father that the student, identified by the authorities, as Faisal Mohammad, 18, "had this weird smile on his face" as lunged at him with the knife.
Mohammed, of Santa Clara, was shot dead by campus police Wednesday after a stabbing spree that began with a brutal slashing of a student in a upstairs classroom. The suspect went on to stab Price as he tried to intervene and then later stabbed a staff member and another student as he fled.
Now out of the hospital, recovering from a knife wound in his left side, Bryon Price told the Merced Sun-Star that his assailant was a "scrawny" young man looked "like a normal UC Merced student" –other than that huge knife in his hand.
"I looked him square in the eyes as he was attacking me," Price said.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said Byron Price did a lot more. He credited his intervention with saving the life of at least one student or potentially more in the classroom.
"Without him the first victim could have been a lot worse off or even dead," Warnke said.
Filling in the details today, John Price said, "I can't be more proud of my son." But he insisted, this "was just a normal thing for Byron to do."
When the violence erupted at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Byron was heading a three-member construction crew for his father's company, Artisan Construction. They were remodeling a student waiting room across the hall from the classroom with Byron and his crew heard the sound of chairs being pushed around.
Soon, the father said, "It sound like people were throwing chairs and they heard a girl screaming."
He said Byron raced in, thinking that this must be a bad fight that the professor would need help in breaking up. He opened the door to hear the professor shouting, "No!" and then suddenly saw the student with the knife doubling back in his direction.
John Price said Byron stepped back in the doorway as the student lunged with the raised knife, trying to protect his torso and abdomen. The knife came striking down, plunging in above his left leg.
He said Byron dropped to the floor, braced himself as the suspect leaned over him and "he was able to get in position and kick him in the head. The attacker stood up."
The next thing the suspect saw was Byron's co-worker, Jacob Rodriguez, running at him with a ladder, preparing to use it as a weapon. John Price said the student looked at Rodriguez and the construction worker and "shook his finger," as if to say "don't even think about coming at anybody."
Authorities say the suspect then bolted down a flight of stairs and stabbed a staff member and another student before police chased him down and shot him dead on the main campus pedestrian way.
John Price said he got a call from his crew that Byron was stabbed. He told them not to wait for an ambulance – just "get him to the hospital now!"
The stabbing missed vital organs and Byron Price, stitched up but a bit woozy from the experience, was released from the hospital later Wednesday.
"Today, he is very sore," the father said. "He said one of his goals is just to complete the basics of life –like taking a shower."
He said Byron told him not to make a big deal about his actions.
"He said, 'Dad, the story is not that cool," John Price said.
Mohammad’s suitemate told a Fresno television station Thursday that the freshman engineering major kept to himself and refused to interact.
“Every time I would try and say something, he would just ignore it,” Andrew Valasquez told KFSN in Fresno.
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office identified Mohammed early Thursday.
“We are handling the investigation,” said Sheriff Vern Warnke. We’ve got some strong developments.”
Mohammad was a graduate of Wilcox High School, according to the Santa Clara Unified School District. A district official said counselors were at the high school.