COLUMBUS, OHIO —
The lawyer representing the family of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the man who wounded 11 people at Ohio State University last week, has said U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter response to the attack shocked the family and kept them silent and mystified.
In the tweet early Wednesday morning, Trump said, “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.”
In an exclusive interview with VOA, the family attorney, Robert Fitrakis, said the family is still in a “tremendous shock.”
“They [the family] are very afraid, and they expected to be attacked when they go to school or in the community. There is a great fear up there. With the statement of the President-elect Trump, to some extent I am not sure they want their faces on camera,” he said.
“Me I do not care, I believe in the American values. I don’t believe in corruption of the blood and guilty by association," he added. "This family is innocent, shocked and traumatized. They really want an answer.”
Artan’s family, who fled from Somalia's chronic violence and poverty, lived in Pakistan for two years and came to the United States in 2014 through a refugee program.
Many Muslims have expressed fear and uncertainty following Trump’s election campaign statement promising a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
Family wants proof
Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his car into a group of students on the Ohio State campus, then got out of the car and began stabbing people before he was shot dead by a police officer.
Minutes before the attack, Artan published a post on Facebook in which he blamed America for killing Muslims abroad and praised al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a hero.
But attorney Fitrakis said the family could not believe their son had committed such a crime and wanted law enforcement agencies investigating the case to present proof.
“They believed something influenced their son or their brother and they want to get to the bottom of it. They want to make sure that nobody else has to go through the pain, the suffering and the trauma they are going through," said Fitrakis.
“The mother, Faduma Saeed Abdullahi, is a single mother who was raising seven children including Artan. She was really very obsessed with education and the father of the family is still in Somalia to my understanding,” Fitrakis said.
Federal and state investigators have found no strong evidence to link his attack to any terrorist group, and Fitrakis said the nature of the attack did not represent the son and the brother this family knew.
“Abdul graduated from the Ohio community college last summer with cum laude. He was a polite and hard working person who was spending most of the time either working at Home Depot or studying,” Fitrakis said.
“[The] family told me he was a good man with a brighter future and they want to know to a large extent to see some kind of proof,” Fitrakis said. “What they want to see is the video types.”
Somali community leaders and law enforcement sources say the last terrorism case tied to Columbus was that of Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was arrested in 2015 after returning from Syria. Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia, was charged with providing material support to terrorists.
But Artan’s recent attack at Ohio State University is the first violent such attack.
Artan visited Washington
Artan's family told their lawyer that when they were in Pakistan, Artan had few friends and they were isolated since there were not many Somalis.
The only time Artan's family suspected him of possible violence was when he posted messages on Facebook minutes before the attack in Ohio.
“One of the family members saw his original post and responded him. In 45 minutes law enforcement agencies and police raided their house, telling them that their bother did an attack,” Fitrakis said.
According to sources close to the family, Abdul Razak Ali Artan went to Washington late on November 24 and came back to Ohio the following day.
Fitrakis said this short trip that occurred without the knowledge of the family surprised and shocked them.
“The fact [was] that he never went out of central Ohio or Columbus area since the family came here, and his trip to Washington DC left the family very suspicious,” Fitrakis said. “He used an old car that had 200,000 miles on it to drive to D.C.”