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Police say University of Waterloo stabbing that sent three to hospital targeted gender issues class

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In the wake of a triple stabbing during a University of Waterloo philosophy class on gender issues, Waterloo Regional Police Chief Mark Crowell said police believe the attack was targeted and motivated by hate related to gender expression and gender identity.

In a press conference held Thursday afternoon, Crowell said investigators have determined the accused specifically targeted a gender issues class.

“Investigators have reason to believe this was a planned and targeted attack, motivated by hate related to gender expression and gender identity,” said Crowell.

According to Crowell, the 38-year-old professor sustained serious, but not life-threatening injuries and was transported to an out-of-region hospital.

Two students were injured, including a 20-year-old woman who sustained serious, but not-life-threatening injuries, and a 19-year-old man who sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Both were taken to a local hospital.

“We believe this was a targeted specific attack related to gender expression and gender identity. For the 2SLGBTQI+ community, we believe [it] was targeted sort of 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, and that was the origins of what transpired,” Crowell said.

Crowell said through the course of the investigation, including an interview with the accused, investigators determined the alleged attacker’s purpose was to make a statement and purposely target the subject matter of gender identity and gender expression.

“We believe this was a specific and targeted purpose for him to be there. We have information that he inquired about the title or the subject matter of the class. We believe that was with purpose, and the information that we are gathering today leads us to believe through the course of our investigation, and including an interview with the accused, that was his purpose, to make a statement and purposely target that subject matter of gender identity and gender expression,” Crowell said.

Geovanny Villalba-Aleman is seen in this undated photo from social media. (LinkedIn/Geovanny Villalba)

Crowell said there is no information to currently suggest the accused coordinated with anyone else to carry out the attack.

STUDENT CHARGED

Police say Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, a 24-year-old, has been charged in connection to a stabbing.Police described him as a international student of the University of Waterloo. Police said he graduated but did not specify when.

He faces three counts of aggravated assault, four counts of assault with a weapon and two counts of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

He also faces a charge of mischief under $5,000, which police told CTV News is in relation to a ripped Pride flag.

ACCUSED APPEARS IN COURT 

The accused, Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, appeared in court on Thursday. He was wearing white jail issued coveralls. His demeanor was neutral.

According to police, he came onto the campus with two knives and injured three people, including a professor. Police said he attempted to injure a fourth person.

According to police, Villabla-Aleman attempted to sneak out of the building with students escaping the building.

“Initially, the accused posed as a victim. However an officer identified him and placed him under arrest,” said Chief Crowell.

Police said students acted to try and stop the attack.

“It was described to me that they were throwing chairs and other objects,” Crowell said. “But I applaud those who sought to intervene.” 

A post on the University of Waterloo website reads in part: “Our thoughts are with our colleague and students who were injured, the students in the class who witnessed the attack, our students in gender and social justice and philosophy, and the entire University of Waterloo community. We stand in solidarity with the many teachers and scholars across the world whose ideas expose them to violence and hate. We are committed to continuing to teach and research topics in gender, social justice, and beyond.”

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU RESPONDS

In a series of tweets posted Thursday afternoon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “the fact that the stabbings at the University of Waterloo were hate-motivated is absolutely despicable.”

“I strongly condemn this vile act. It is another reminder that we can never let misogynistic, anti-2SLGBTQI+ rhetoric escalate – because these words have real-life consequences,” the thread reads.

“I want to make this clear: This heinous violence, and the hate that fueled it, have no place in our country. We must – and we will – keep working to build a Canada where everyone is welcome to be who they are, to study what they want, and to be safe from violence,” the final tweet in the thread reads.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau addressed the stabbing on Twitter saying this type of violence must always be condemned.

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