Armed ex-U of A student roams campus

By Christie Tucker

The University of Alberta’s Tory Lecture theatre was the scene of a dramatic takedown Wednesday afternoon as police wrestled an armed former student to the ground.

Police reported that the suspect was returning to his vehicle with a shotgun in a case under his arm when two plainclothes officers tackled and restrained him.

Former second-year Mining student Fareed Wijdani has been charged with two counts of armed robbery and three weapons charges and will be submitted to psychiatric examination.

It was the conclusion of a tense morning for police, who were alerted to the suspect after he caught a cab to the U of A from his north-end home, bringing the shotgun with him. As the taxi approached his destination, the accused asked the driver to turn around and return to the north side. Police suspect that he was spooked by dialogue between the cab driver and his dispatcher.

The suspect allegedly pulled out a knife and robbed the cab driver before using the gun to carjack another man’s blue Chevy Impala and return to campus. Simultaneously, police received a tip that suggested the accused was heading to the university to "settle a score." They contacted Campus Security, who notified Parking Services. The vehicle, parked along Saskatchewan Drive outside the Tory Building, was soon spotted by a Parking Services employee.

The man allegedly approached the building with a gun under his arm and, according to bystanders, asked a student outside the doors for a cigarette.

Police did not find the accused until he returned to the car, and are uncertain whether he went inside any buildings or why he came back to the car.

But U of A Vice-President Academic and Provost Doug Owram maintains that the accused "did not get into any buildings," though officials admit that they did not know the man’s whereabouts for the half-hour between the university’s notification he was approaching campus and the man’s arrest.

When the university was notified at 11:30 a.m. and told to watch for the suspect, employees locked down six buildings as well as several offices. People on campus who security thought might be at risk were notified and evacuated.

Dorte Sheikh, Assistant Registrar (Records) was one of the people notified by Campus Patrol Services. Sheikh was identified as one of many possible targets because of her position as a contact for students who have been suspended or excluded.

"I really didn’t feel personally threatened," said Sheikh, who has never met the suspect. "But I felt concerned for the office and the campus as a whole."

After Sheikh received the warning, the Registrar’s Office staff closed down the front desk. A photograph of the suspect was sent to all Campus Security and Parking Services staff, as well as to Edmonton Police. Campus Security had the man’s picture on file, but would not disclose what offences he had previously committed, except to say that they had reason to believe he was violent.

Friends of Wijdani say that he had been barred from campus in the Fall session after he was accused of stalking a female student while in the possession of five knives, including a butcher knife.

"We reported him to Campus [Security] because he was [allegedly] stalking [a female student named Terry]. I don’t know if she was the reason he was coming around here or not. He might have a bone to pick with the whole Mining Engineering Department," said classmate Curtis Dunford.

Sheikh confirmed that the accused was banned from campus for that incident in October.

Friends and people who know Wijdani say he is quiet and keeps to himself.

"Some people figured he was a bit of an… interesting individual before, so a lot of people weren’t too surprised that this [allegedly] happened," said Dunford.

Police believe that he had returned to confront the female student whom he had allegedly been stalking. The woman is currently away from campus on co-op assignment. Shantz said police have searched Widjani’s house for further evidence.

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