A class at the Australian National University in Canberra has turned into chaos after a student confronted his lecturer with a baseball bat and students rushed to her aid.
Police spokesman Ben Cartwright says the alleged attacker was an 18-year-old, white male.
“During the class, the student has stood up from his seat with a baseball bat and approached the lecturer at the front of the classroom. Other students in the class have intervened and attempted to restrain the student with that baseball bat.”
Three students and the lecturer were injured in the incident and taken to Canberra Hospital with serious injuries, including one with a broken arm.
Campus security and local police were quick to arrive on the scene.
Police say it is too early to determine the motivation behind the alleged assault, but they say the male was not known to police or intelligence agencies.
Some of the victims are believed to have been of Asian background, but police are not saying whether there is any indication the attack was racially motivated.
The Canberra Times has reported a spokeswoman for the Chinese embassy confirmed consular staff were meeting with the university, but the nature of their involvement is unknown.
The Chinese social-media site Australian Red Scarf says Chinese students were among the injured, which include two female students and one male student.
Ben Cartwright, the police spokesman, has offered few details, but says it appears to be an isolated incident.
“All indications at this stage are that it is an isolated incident. Everything is part of our investigation, we’ll go forward, but, at this stage, I can tell you the facts of the matter are that the student stood up at the back of the classroom with the baseball bat and approached a lecturer, where other students have intervened. And that is how the injuries have occurred.”
ANU student Alexander Vuong says he was due to attend class nearby a short time after the incident.
He says he arrived to find an ambulance and several police officers on the grounds.
“I got to uni at about 9:25, and my class is right next to where the incident happened. So I was sitting in the courtyard taking notes, and I saw about five police officers just walking around interviewing a number of people, as well as about a dozen ANU security people.”
Another student, Freya Willis, who lives on campus, says the incident has left many of her fellow students alarmed.
“I mean, I think everyone’s just really shocked and terrified. I think there’s not a lot of information yet about why it happened or any kind of details. We don’t even really know who was in the classroom or which classroom it was, and so I think there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear as a result of that. It’s very much that feeling of, I guess, an environment that you thought was safe, that you used to learn, like a classroom, then becoming a place of danger. And that’s really unsettling, I think.”
Deputy vice chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington has expressed shock over the incident.
“This was an unusual, a very, very unusual, incident in Canberra. We know one another, we care for one another, and our highest priority is to look after one another. Our thoughts are with, of course, the staff and the students involved in this incident.”
The ANU will hold its university Open Day tomorrow and says security will be stepped up for the event.