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WRPS call University of Waterloo stabbing hate-motivated, charge 24-year-old international student

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Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) say a 24-year-old international student has been charged in connection to a stabbing that injured three people during a gender studies class in Hagey Hall at the University of Waterloo on Wednesday.

According to police, Geovanny Villalba-Aleman had been studying at the university, and 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.

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

MOTIVATION

Police believe the accused targeted a gender-studies class and investigators believe it was a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity.

About 40 students were in the classroom at the time of the incident, according to WRPS. Three people were stabbed including the professor, a 38-year-old woman and two students, a 20-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man – both from Waterloo. Police said all victims sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries.

The accused was located by police within the building and arrested and is expected to appear in court for a bail hearing on Thursday.

“I can also confirm that this incident is contained entirely within the university community itself. There is no further threat to public safety either on campus or outside in the broader community at this time,” Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) superintendent Shaena Morris said at a press conference on Wednesday night. 

According to police, the call came in around 3:35 p.m. on Wednesday.

Waterloo regional police can be seen at the University of Waterloo following a stabbing on June 28, 2023. (Dave Pettitt/CTV News)

'IT’S A BIG SHOCK': UW SPEAKS ABOUT INCIDENT

Nick Manning, associate vice-president of communications for the University of Waterloo, joined police at the news conference to speak about the impact on the community.

He said of the people taken to hospital, two were students, and one was a professor.

He said all three were in the same classroom.

“Our entire community is really concerned that this would happen here. It’s a big shock,” Manning said.

“Our first thoughts, of course, go to the students who are in the class and have turned immediately to making sure [they are OK] in addition to supporting the police inquiry. We’ve been there to support the mental health of our students and of our staff,” Manning said.

Manning said partners at IMPACT with the Canadian Association of Mental Health have counsellors on scene at Hagey Hall and other areas on campus to help those impacted by the incident.

“We’ve immediately turned to supporting our students. We will look at some of the other issues around the campus as we unfold the incident in the coming days,” he added.

The stabbing reports come just hours after the University of Waterloo said it was done testing its emergency notification system.

“We need to take a look again at our emergency notifications systems, of course,” Manning said. “In any incident, the first thought for anybody involved is the immediate preservation of life and the security response, which is where the focus was today.”

Manning said on a typical day the university does not have a strong and super visible security presence.

“We are blessed to be in an area of the world where these kinds of things happen very, very rarely. We have a great security team and special constable service that were able to react very, very quickly in great partnership with Waterloo Regional Police Service,” Manning added.

The university did not identify the professor involved in the attack.

Dozens of people are seen standing outside on the University of Waterloo campus following a stabbing on June 28, 2023 (Dave Pettitt/CTV News)

HAGEY HALL CLOSED

Just before 5 p.m., the university said in a tweet "there is no further threat to our campus community."

All classes in Hagey Hall have been cancelled, while other campus operations will proceed as usual, the university said.

"Hagey Hall remains closed until tomorrow morning while police continue their investigation," an update from the university reads.

Dozens of students could be seen standing outside on the campus just after 4 p.m.

The University of Waterloo said in a tweet posted at 4:27 p.m. that the university is supporting the Waterloo Regional Police Service investigation.

Dozens of people were outside University of Waterloo buildings on Wednesday as police responded to reports of a stabbing. (Dave Pettitt/CTV News)

“EVERYBODY JUST RAN OUT”

A University of Waterloo student said that they were in the classroom when someone came in and questioned who the professor was, and then pulled out a knife.

“I ran out, and after we went outside, there was a kid that was stabbed. He was bleeding [from] his arm. I don’t know what happened to the professor,”  Yusuf Kaymak told CTV News.

Kaymak said the class was full of around 40 students studying gender issues, all of whom ran out, some of whom were crying.

“There were a lot of people just shocked, they didn’t know what to say. We all just ran out of the building and didn’t look back,” Kaymak added.

Paramedics on the University of Waterloo campus load a person into an ambulance following a stabbing. (Dave Pettitt/CTV News)

Another student confirmed the classroom was studying gender issues when a man came into the classroom and pulled out knives.

“A guy came into our classroom and asked our professor some weird question, and then the guy attacked our professor with two very big knives from [his] very big backpack," Jimmy Li, UW student said.

Waterloo regional police can be seen on the University of Waterloo campus on Wednesday. (Dave Pettitt/CTV News)

Meanwhile, another student said he found out about the ongoing incident in a text from his friend who was in the area of the attack.

“One of my friends who was studying on the very first floor where the incident took place and he said to me 'yo, there’s someone running around with two blades going around and attacking people,’” the student said in an interview with CTV News. “My initial reaction was to barricade the doors, but after when the coast was a little more clear we stepped out.”

The student said when he exited the room he saw officers arresting a person.

"This is my first time experiencing this. I don't know how to talk about this," another student said. "I don't know what happened. I just ran. I just ran out of the room."

MAYOR RESPONDS 

Waterloo’s mayor commented on the incident on Twitter, saying that there is no longer a threat to the community.

“This was a very troubling & disturbing incident. I'm relieved that the individual involved was quickly apprehended,” said Mayor Dorothy McCabe. “Waterloo city council & staff offer our support and hopes for a full recovery to those injured on UW's campus today.”

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