A student has been arrested after assaulting three fellow students and a lecturer in an unprovoked attack during a statistics lecture at the Australian National University in the capital Canberra.
According to the Australian Federal Police, shortly after the lecture began the man stood up in his seat armed with a baseball bat and approached the lecturer at the front of the room. Three students rushed to intervene and restrain him. He assaulted four people, including the lecturer, leaving them with serious injuries, including broken bones.
Police Detective Superintendent Ben Cartwright praised the "incredible bravery on behalf of those students to protect the lecturer." During the assault, one student succeeded in taking the bat away from the attacker and running away with it, he said.
Max Claessens, an 18-year-old student whose friend was inside the classroom, said his friend told him that the attacker had waited until the class had settled in before he suddenly pulled out a baseball bat and began hurting people.
"One of the students just randomly, out of the blue, got up with a bat, struck out at two or three students, before apparently going for the teacher. And obviously people were in a bit of shock so they ran out to get help before the guy - who wasn't coming down and was going a bit crazy, to be honest - was restrained," Claessens said.
Another student, Jolene Lavery, was walking past the room shortly after the attack. She described the situation, saying, "There was a man on a stretcher who was being offered morphine, so obviously in a lot of pain, with a lot of blood coming from his head. And a lot of people in shock as well. A lot of people getting blankets put over them and being looked after by the staff and emergency services."
The man was unknown to police and had no other weapons on him. Police have declined to speculate on whether the attack by the 18 year-old white male was racially motivated, as most of the other students were Asian.
"It is too early to determine the motivation behind this alleged assault and at this stage the police have not ruled anything out," Detective Cartwright told reporters in Canberra.
The Chinese Embassy told local newspaper the Canberra Times that consular staff were meeting with the university after the attack, but the nature of their involvement is not yet known.
In response to the attack, and specifically the students who rushed to intervene, the university's Deputy Vice Chancellor Marni Hughes-Warrington said, "I'm delighted and unsurprised to see such acts of bravery - we know one another, we really care for one another."
"This is an isolated and random incident that's happened in a very caring community. This is a very unusual thing," Hughes-Warrington said.
cl/msh (dpa, AP)