Attempted Murderer with Knife Allegedly Tried to Approach Elizabeth Smart at Event

An 80-year-old man with a knife allegedly tried to approach Elizabeth Smart on Monday while she was speaking at an event at Indiana State University

Photo: Getty; AP

An 80-year-old man with a knife and a long criminal history allegedly tried to approach Elizabeth Smart on Monday while she was speaking at an Indiana State University event, police tell PEOPLE.

Claude Hudson is charged with battery for allegedly punching a school police officer who intercepted him as he moved toward Smart, according to ISU Police Chief Joseph Newport, who says he doesn’t think the man meant any harm.

Authorities say there is no connection between Hudson and Smart, 29, who was appearing on the Terre Haute, Indiana, campus to speak about overcoming hardship. Chief Newport says that Hudson has a decades-long criminal history, including a 1991 conviction for attempted murder, according to the Tribune Star.

Hudson is on parole for burglary, Newport says.

He says an officer saw Hudson at Monday’s event with a roughly three-inch knife before he put it away and allegedly began “rapidly walking toward” Smart, around the long line of other people waiting to meet her.

But Newport says neither he nor the officer believe Hudson intended to hurt her — though the man was allegedly acting strangely, he could have “just been someone who was rude and impatient.”

When the officer stepped in front of Hudson, he allegedly struck the officer twice before he was restrained, Newport says.

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Newport says Hudson told police he didn’t want to wait in the line of more than 100 people to approach Smart, and that he wanted to ask her questions about her family.

Hudson has pleaded not guilty to the battery charge and his bail was set at $25,000, according to the Associated Press. Newport says he remains in custody, and neither he nor his public defender reportedly returned requests for comment.

PEOPLE could not immediately reach him or his attorney.

Hudson asked to represent himself and a judge ordered a mental health evaluation, according to Chief Newport, who says that Smart did not seem frightened by Monday’s incident.

In a statement Thursday, she said she “is grateful for law enforcement and Indiana State University’s quick response and that the event and her work continued undeterred,” according to the AP.

An abduction survivor and advocate, Smart speaks out about her experiences on behalf of others. She was 14 when she was taken from her Salt Lake City bedroom and held for nine months, before being rescued.

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