It was just supposed to be a rehearsal.
When the University of Hartford students gathered at an on-campus apartment Sunday, they were there to work on a class assignment — filming a stabbing scene from a movie, according to a copy of a police report obtained by WTIC.
But what began as a reenactment took a real-life turn when one of the students, 21-year-old Jake Wascher, allegedly attacked two of his peers with a kitchen knife because he was “into his character” and “acted a little to [sic] hard,” police said in the report. One person who was stabbed has since been discharged from the hospital while the other “remains in the intensive care unit in critical condition,” Lt. Paul C. Cicero of the Hartford Police Department told The Washington Post in an email on Monday.
Wascher, who studies acting at the university, was charged with two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder, police said. He was arraigned Monday and is in custody on a $1 million bond, Cicero said. Wascher’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment late Monday.
On Sunday, police said Wascher and his classmates had been acting out a scene from the 2004 science-fiction thriller “The Butterfly Effect,” starring Ashton Kutcher, the Hartford Courant reported. Wascher was cast as the main character, the incident report said.
Then, screams started echoing through the apartment, witnesses told police.
Armed with what one witness described as a six- or seven-inch-long kitchen knife, Wascher allegedly went after the project’s director, a 21-year-old male, stabbing him in the chest and the arm. When a 19-year-old student in the room yelled at Wascher to stop, the report alleges that he “turned his attention” to the male classmate. Wascher stabbed the 19-year-old in the chest and back, and then threw the knife at him, a witness told police. A search of the room where the students had been filming turned up a kitchen knife matching the description of the one allegedly wielded by Wascher, the report said.
Authorities said they received a 911 call at around 1:30 p.m., but by the time they arrived at the Connecticut campus all they found were the two students “suffering from serious stab wounds.” Wascher, who had already been identified as the suspect, was long gone, having fled the scene on foot, the release said.
The university’s campus was immediately locked down as law enforcement scoured the area for Wascher.
Almost two hours later, a person matching Wascher’s description was spotted “by a swampy wood-line” near the university’s main campus, police said.
“He saw police and ran back into the woods,” Cicero told reporters at a news conference Sunday. “Several more officers responded to the area, gave verbal commands and the suspect came out of the woods.”
Wascher surrendered and was arrested, according to the release. Cicero said Sunday that investigators were still trying to figure out what prompted the “horrific incident” and hoped to talk to the two victims who were also “critical witnesses.”
One student suffered a “puncture wound to the chest and four to the back,” Cicero said. The other, who was still in surgery at the time of the news conference, was stabbed once in the chest and the back, he said.
“We don’t know what the motive is,” he said, adding that none of the students had criminal histories. “We don’t know what happened.”
Though Wascher initially told police during a taped interview that he had not been acting and was merely “curious about what it would be like to stab someone,” he later said he stabbed them because he was acting in the scene “and my emotions got the best of me,” according to the report.
The 2004 film Wascher and his peers were reportedly reenacting follows the life of college student Evan Treborn, played by Kutcher, who has the ability to travel back in time, inhabit his younger self and alter the past to change the present. The changes he makes, however, have unintended consequences, often resulting in disturbing alternate realities.
Wascher, originally from San Diego, was pursuing a degree in acting at The Hartt School, a comprehensive performing arts conservatory at the university, according to his Facebook profile.
On Sunday, the university said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” by the violence.
“While there is no ongoing threat to campus, we recognize that this isolated incident is frightening and unsettling,” the statement said.
In another statement shared Monday, the school said it was “in contact with the families of our injured students and they remain in our thoughts.”
Wascher’s next court hearing is scheduled for April 15, the Courant reported.
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