Officials release sword attack details

The victim of the aggravated assault incident that occurred on campus Thursday, Feb. 5 is recuperating from his wounds at Grady Memorial Hospital. Kshitij Shrotri, a recent Tech graduate, allegedly attacked Samer Tawfik, a post-doctoral fellow at the Weber SST building with a katana sword. Tawfik suffered lacerations to both his hands and wrists and a wound to the left side of his torso. Following a long procedure in the operating room that lasted late into Thursday night, Tawfik’s condition is currently stable, but he has yet to be released, as of Wednesday Feb. 10

On the day of the incident, Professor Marilyn Smith called GTPD to report the assault, after hearing commotion in the hall and seeing the attack. She and Dr. Oliver Bauchau cleared the halls of students and faculty.

“I ran outside and waved my hands to ensure that they stopped at the correct end of the building. It was not a random flag down of the GT police—they arrived with lights and sirens as appropriate to the call. The GT police arrived very rapidly after I made my call,” Smith said.

According to police reports, when officers confronted Shrotri in Tawfik’s cubicle and demanded he drop his weapon he said, “You will have to kill me.” He added, “He ruined my life.” Tawfik lay on the ground behind his desk when officers arrived. After multiple warnings, officers sprayed Shrotri with pepper spray and Officer Robert J. Turner pinned him against a bookshelf, wrapping his arms around him. Shrotri did not let go of the sword and as a result, Turner received a cut on his left hand. The cut required 13 stitches, but Turner returned to service the next day. Officers tended to Tawfik’s wounds until Grady EMS arrived on the scene.

Friends and students were shocked at the attack on such a well-liked and respected member of the Tech community.

“I had a hard time believing it. He is, without a doubt, the most kind-hearted professor I’ve had here at Tech. I just couldn’t imagine someone being so mad at him, especially enough to rationalize attacking him,” said Alex Cooper, a second year BME.

A motive for the attack is yet to be determined, but GTPD is continuing an ongoing investigation of the incident. This investigation may include a police report filed regarding a prior incident at the Ferst Center on Sept. 4, 2009 that involved both men. According to the report, Shrotri interrupted a dance performed by the Turkish Student Organization, in which Tawfik and another woman were participating. Shrotri yelled at the woman for dancing near Tawfik, before pushing Tawfik and walking away.

The woman stated that Shrotri had been sending her emails, but she did not know him on a personal level. She considered filing a protective order against Shrotri, but decided not to as to avoid provoking him. Tawfik stated that he did not want to file charges, but wanted the incident noted. Officers told Shrotri not to contact the woman again. Shrotri had moved out of the state to work for the University of Delaware, and was not affiliated with Tech at the time of the first incident.

“I had Mr. Shrotri in my rotorcraft design classes, and he was a hard worker and was a member and co-leader of several student design competitions which won national awards, including AHS and NASA, as well as best poster at the Georgia Tech Research and Innovation Symposium. He worked very hard for me and did a good job on his PhD thesis which involved developing an innovative composite landing gear design,” said Dr. Daniel Schrage, Shrotri’s PhD adviser.

Tech officials were generally pleased with the immediate response to the incident. “It’s important to acknowledge what went right during an event like this. We will conduct a debrief the events and evaluate the response,” said Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson. Peterson praised the actions of the campus community in responding to the incident.

“The swift and rational response of students in the vicinity prevented the escalation of the situation… [and] the bravery, presence of mind, and show of restraint by Officer Turner led to the control of the situation,” Peterson said.

Questions were raised following the incident regarding Tech’s decision not to use emergency the Georgia Tech Emergency Notification Systems (GTENS) to alert campus of the events. There was a test of the GTENS alert system the morning of the incident.

“GTENS will be used when the campus community needs to take immediate action, and because there was an immediate arrest there was no real threat or danger to campus… the police department made the decision not to send a GTENS alert,” said Jim Fetig, the associate vice-president of Communications and Marketing.

“The police had him [the suspect] subdued within minutes. GTENS is for a situation when there is a need to communicate with campus during an emergency and people have to take action to avoid a real threat,” Peterson said.

Fetig noted that there will be a review of the use of GTENS under similar situations. He also noted that the Institute used social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to get word out of the incident. Communications and Marketing updated its Facebook and Twitter accounts within eight minutes of the incident and placed a statement on the main Tech website within 20 minutes. A statement was sent across campus via email around 5:30 p.m.