A machete-wielding man stormed a central Ohio restaurant owned by an Israeli on Thursday evening, injuring four people before being shot dead by police.
Authorities identified the suspected attacker as 30-year-old Mohamed Barry, who police say may have traveled to the United Arab Emirates in 2012. The FBI, which has joined the investigation, is probing whether the assault was an instance of homegrown extremism motivated by the mistaken impression that the restaurant owner was Jewish, according to NBC News. Security officials are worried that the incident is the same sort of “lone wolf terrorist attacks they’re trying to stop,” CBS News added.
Hany Baransi, the Arab Israeli Christian who owns the Nazareth Restaurant and Deli in northeast Columbus, believes that his establishment was attacked because of his background. “Obviously we were targeted because there’s a whole bunch of businesses around here,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “I’m the only foreigner.” However, authorities cautioned that it is too early in the investigation to identify any motive, with Columbus police Sgt. Rich Weiner saying that “right now there’s nothing that leads us to believe that this is anything but a random attack.”
Barry reportedly attacked the restaurant shortly after speaking with one of the its employees. While police declined to say what this conversation was about, a local news channel quoted Baransi saying that the attacker had asked about his whereabouts. The outlet added that a small Israeli flag and an Arabic phrase of welcoming—”Ahlan Wa Shalan”—were visible near the restaurant’s entrance.
According to authorities, Barry left the restaurant for about a half an hour after this conversation, then returned and began his attack.
“He came to each table and just started hitting them,” said Karen Bass, who was in the restaurant at the time. “There were tables and chairs overturned, there was a man on the floor bleeding, there was blood on the floor.”
Police say that the restaurant’s patrons fought back and threw chairs at Barry, who fled in a car after injuring four diners and led cops on a five-mile chase. He emerged from his vehicle after it spun off the road, lunging at officers with a machete and another knife before he was shot dead. No cops were hurt.
The victims injured in the attack were treated at the nearby Grant Medical Center. They were named as William Foley, 54, who is in critical but stable condition; Gerald Russell and Debbie Russell, who are both 43-years-old and in stable condition; and Neil McMeekin, 43, who was treated for his wounds and released.
[Photo: WSYX ABC 6 / Twitter ]