A 24-year-old student has been charged with stabbing three people during a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo in Canada this week in what police are calling a “hate-motivated incident.”
The suspect, Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, is an international student who recently graduated from the university, Waterloo Regional Police Service Chief Mark Crowell said during a Thursday news conference.
Villalba-Aleman is accused of targeting the gender studies class, and “investigators believe this was a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity,” according to a news release from the Waterloo Regional Police Service. He has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault; four counts of assault with a weapon; two counts of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose; and mischief under $5,000.
“It is both sad and disturbing that this incident has occurred during Pride month,” Crowell said. “We hope this incident does not diminish from these celebrations but, instead, encourages us all to come together.”
Police say the suspect walked into a university lecture classroom on Wednesday around 3:30 p.m. and stabbed a 38-year-old professor, a 20-year-old female student and a 19-year-old male student with a knife. Roughly 40 students were inside the classroom at the time of the attack, police said.
At 3:37 p.m., police received multiple 911 calls from students at the university, saying people were stabbed inside a classroom, Crowell said. The first police officer arrived on the scene within three minutes, the chief said.
The victims’ injuries are serious but not life-threatening, and all were being treated at hospitals, police spokesperson Cherri Greeno told CNN Wednesday.
Officers found the suspect in the same building where the stabbings took place – Hagey Hall – and placed him under arrest “without further incident,” Crowell said. The suspect initially posed as a victim before officers quickly identified him, he added.
Villalba-Aleman was not a member of the class, Crowell said, but spoke with the professor of the class “before attacking her with two large knives without provocation.”
Several students attempted to stop the attack while others fled the room, Crowell said. As students were trying to escape, the suspect stabbed two students and attempted to stab a third student, who was not injured, he said.
“We have since sought judicial authorizations to search the suspect’s home to further our investigation,” Crowell said during the news conference. “At this point, there’s no information to suggest the suspect coordinated with anyone else in carrying out this attack.”
The stabbings prompted the university to issue orders to vacate the building and shelter in place order as police responded to the scene.
Waterloo is about 70 miles west of Toronto.