Uncle remembers Va. trade school stabbing victim who had ‘heart of a lion’

The family of a man killed by a fellow student at a Manassas, Virginia, trade school on Tuesday said he died trying to stop the attack.

Group picture with Elijah Islam Safadi depicted with a halo graphic over his head
Elijah Islam Safadi, 23, of Manassas, Virginia, was fatally stabbed at a trade school on Tuesday. (Courtesy Chris Montanez)

Elijah Safadi, 23, was an electrician and was participating in a class with his twin brother when Prince William County Police said another student entered and pulled out a knife. According to investigators, Safadi and another 23-year-old man, who was also a student, were stabbed during the attack.

“It’s just so damn random,” Safadi’s uncle, Chris Montanez, said about what happened. “People say it 100 times: ‘I never thought that this could happen to me.’ And yet here we are.”

He said his two nephews, Safadi and his twin brother Isaiah, were in the classroom when the attack took place.

According to other family members who spoke to WTOP, the brothers and other students in the class attempted to stop the assailant — later identified as Philip Austin Brant, 26, of Woodbridge.

Safadi was stabbed multiple times and died of his injuries at a hospital. The other student was stabbed in another classroom and was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Brant was killed by responding police officers who saw him at the entrance to the training center and commanded him to drop the knife.

As the family prepares to lay Safadi to rest Thursday, Montanez said they are overcome with grief.

“It’s been a very difficult time, mostly because Elijah … you wouldn’t find a finer person,” he said.

Montanez said he isn’t surprised to learn that his nephew tried to save others. He described Elijah as kind, funny and hardworking. Family members confirmed with WTOP that Elijah was set to become a father in the future.

When it comes to Safadi’s legacy, Montanez said that will be tied to how he reacted on the day he died. Montanez said Elijah will be remembered for having “the heart of a lion.”

“He died a hero, and we will carry that with us for the rest of our lives,” Montanez said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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