British Columbia

Family of Amirreza Sepehr, accused of stabbing at Emily Carr University, speaks out

The family of the man accused of stabbing a fellow student in the face says he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and needs help.

'We just want everyone to know that he's sick, and he needs help'

Amirreza Sepehr has been charged with assault in connection with a stabbing at Emily Carr University in Vancouver. (Zahra Hassanpour)

The family of a man accused of stabbing a fellow student in the face at Emily Carr University on Wednesday evening says he suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and needs help.

Amirreza Sepehr has been charged with two counts of assault with a weapon, said Vancouver police. The 24-year-old man turned himself in on Thursday morning. 

Police said the assault was the result of a continuing dispute between Sepehr and the 26-year-old victim, whose name has not been released.

"There is no excuse for what he has done," said Zahra Hassanpour, Amirreza Sepehr's aunt. "We just want everyone to know that he's sick, and he needs help."

Zahra Hassanpour says she was surprised to hear her nephew, Amirreza Sepehr, has been charged in a violent crime. (CBC)

Hassanpour said she was stunned to find out that Sepehr has been charged with assault. 

"He was doing great," she said. "For me it was so shocking."

Sepehr was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome five years ago and had been taking medication — but she said he stopped taking it because of the side effects, which made him feel like a "vegetable." 

She said although he had previously acted out by punching walls and breaking doors, he had never been violent towards anyone.

"He just hurt himself, he never hurt anybody," she said. 

Classroom provocation, witness says

Sepehr has had brushes with the law in the past, including convictions for weapons possession, uttering threats and assault with a weapon.

Sgt. Randy Fincham said the investigation will likely turn to the nature of the feud. 

"For something like this to escalate to the point where it results in a stabbing is very serious, so a lot of the investigation will stem around … what the dispute was between these two men."

Classes were cancelled at Emily Carr University on Granville Island in Vancouver on Thursday after a classroom stabbing late Wednesday afternoon. (Ryan Stelting)

At the time of the altercation, about 60 students were in a lecture hall at the Granville Island fine arts school, preparing to take a break shortly before 6 p.m. PT, according to student witness Dariush Ghaderi.

The incident appeared to start while one man was passing an attendance sheet to a fellow student.

"This guy started provoking the other guy sitting down, started yelling really violently," said Ghaderi.

Ghaderi said he and other students tried to calm Sepehr down, but he took out a knife and stabbed the other student in the face.

Sepehr fled before officers arrived.

The man who was stabbed was taken to hospital and treated for minor injuries to the face, Fincham said.

"I'm still very shocked, everybody's shocked. It was just a normal lecture break, like nothing that would indicate that something like that would happen," said Ghaderi.

The incident prompted the university to cancel classes on Thursday, "to deal with this situation in a systematic way," officials said in a written statement.

With files from Kamil Karamali

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