‘You are safe,’ Transylvania attacker says to Republican student in coffee shop

Details released on Transylvania campus assault with a machete

Transylvania University President Seamus Carey, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard discuss assault on campus that sent one student to a local hospital.
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Transylvania University President Seamus Carey, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard discuss assault on campus that sent one student to a local hospital.

A man has been arrested after a machete attack on Transylvania University’s campus that sent one woman to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Mitchell Adkins

Mitchell W. Adkins, 19, of Cincinnati has been charged with first-degree and fourth-degree assault, and three counts of wanton endangerment, according to police. Adkins is a former Transy undergraduate student who withdrew in 2015, Transylvania spokeswoman Michele Gaither Sparks said.

The attacker walked into a coffee shop inside the Glenn Building on Friday morning, asked people their political affiliation, then went on the attack, one witness said. Adkins appears to have a history of publicly protesting what he considered the mistreatment of conservatives on college campuses.

Adkins was armed with a machete and knives, Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard said. The various weapons were in a bag, police said later. Adkins made verbal threats to students and staff in the building and struck two women, according to police.

One victim, a female student, was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening, fire department Battalion Chief Joe Best said.

Later Friday morning, she was safe, “and her family is with her at UK Hospital,” Transylvania President Seamus Carey said.

Paramedics treated another female student on campus. She didn’t need to be taken to a hospital, Best said.

Adkins was taken to a hospital to be evaluated for “self-inflicted injuries,” according to police.

Tristan Reynolds, a student who was in the campus café where the attack occurred, said about 30 to 40 people were there at the time.

“A guy came in, banged something, a hatchet or an ax, on the table and said, ‘The day of reckoning has come,’” Reynolds said. “He asked somebody what their political affiliation was, they said ‘Republican,’ and the guy said, ‘You are safe.’ And then I realized what was going on and started getting people out.”

“We started to scatter and then very, very quickly, campus security was getting everybody sheltered and secure,” Reynolds said. “They were very on it.”

Campus security officers subdued the assailant quickly, preventing further injury, Barnard said.

Security officers tackled the suspect, said Sparks, the university spokeswoman.

In a letter to students, staff and faculty, Carey praised Jazzman’s Café employee Erika Lyvers for “resisting the perpetrator.”

“This morning she picked up a chair to go after a 230-pound man wielding a hatchet,” Carey said. “As we were talking in the aftermath of the incident, I commented on her courage. She summed up how we all feel today: ‘These students are our babies. Nobody’s going to hurt one of them without a fight.’”

Students were alerted about the attack by text messages through the campus’ T-Alert system, Sparks said.

The coffee shop, inside the Glenn Building, has an open floor plan and is a popular spot for students to get coffee and breakfast, Reynolds said.

He is the editor-in-chief of the Transylvania student newspaper, The Rambler, and he was with newspaper staff at the café.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Barnard and Carey praised campus security officers for their swift response.

“They’ve always been amazing, and today they proved their worth again,” Carey said. “They were there immediately. They saved what could have been a much more disastrous situation, and I’d also like to commend the Lexington police for responding immediately as well.”

“We are vigilant about safety on our campus,” Carey said. “Obviously you never expect something like this, but thankfully we were prepared when it did happen.”

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Lexington police officers remained at Transylvania University for hours after a man armed with a machete and knives entered a campus coffee shop inside the Glenn building, at left, and attacked at least one person. A suspect, thought to be a former student, was arrested. Charles Bertram

A few weeks ago, Lexington police and Transylvania security officers had active-shooter training, Barnard said. During the training, campus security and police discussed locking down buildings and keeping students and faculty safe.

“That was very beneficial for us,” Barnard said.

Transylvania’s emergency response team will convene next week to discuss how the situation was handled, Sparks said. They’ll examine what went well and where improvements can be made.

“We were very pleased with the response. ... They were exemplary,” Sparks said.

Campus, including the Glenn Building, reopened later Friday.

“It has been a very stressful day here on our campus,” Sparks said. “Though classes have been canceled, we have remained on campus to help students. Our very first priority is to be here and be on hand for our students and community members.”

Classes will resume Monday on a regular schedule, Sparks said.

One person was injured and another taken into custody after a machete attack Friday morning at a Transylvania University coffee shop, according to police.

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