After the weekend, concern about the timeliness and language of the University’s response to Friday’s hoax bomb threat remains while FBI investigations are still ongoing.
Erik Vasys, San Antonio FBI spokesperson and agent, said the FBI takes all threats seriously and the investigation into this incident is ongoing. He would not elaborate on the details of the investigation.
The University ordered a campus-wide building evacuation at 9:50 a.m. Friday in response to a bomb threat that was called in 75 minutes earlier at 8:35 a.m. Many students said they were concerned the University waited too long to evacuate the buildings. The caller claimed the bombs “all over” campus would start detonating 90 minutes after his phone call, making the detonation time 10:05 a.m.
In this instance, the criminal consequence under state law for making a terrorist threat is a third degree felony, with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, as well as possible civil liabilities. If a terrorist threat meets certain specifications, such as disrupting public transportation, putting the public in fear and/or influencing government activities, then the crime is considered a third degree felony.
The University delayed registration-related deadlines originally set for Friday, including undergraduate add-drop and tuition payment, until 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17. As of Sunday night, the University had not sent a campus-wide email informing students of the extension.
At a press conference at noon Friday, UT President William Powers Jr. said he was extremely confident the University was safe. Powers said he could not elaborate on the details of the call and defended UT’s response to the incident.
Meanwhile, North Dakota State University also received a bomb threat. Vasys said the FBI is looking at the possibility of a connection between the two hoax calls. At Friday’s noon press conference, Powers said he could not say whether the two instances were related, but he did say the investigation team had information that they might be.
UTPD chief Robert Dahlstrom said bomb threats at UT usually happen multiple times each semester.
“It doesn’t happen that often,” Dahlstrom said. “It’s very rare. I would say several a semester, and that’s just on average.”
Dahlstrom said the text message was sent at 9:50 a.m. Had the threat been real, the bombs would have gone off around 10:05 a.m., giving students less than 20 minutes to evacuate UT buildings and distance themselves away from campus.
“I think 9:50 a.m. was way too late to decide they were going to evacuate,” said Daniel Cortte, freshman architecture major. “It seemed to me like they were more concerned with finding out if it was real.”
Cortte said he saw students in buildings at 10:05 a.m.
Powers said the first action the University takes when a threat is made against campus is to determine if the threat is credible. He said if the threat had been of immediate danger, the University would have evacuated immediately.
Students can subscribe to the University’s text message alerts on UTPD’s website. But some students who said they are subscribed to the alerts said they did not get the messages.
Theater junior Chase Gladden said he did not receive the original evacuation alert text message because his classroom lacked reception. Another student who ran in late told the class about the text message.
“Once we all got outside of the building, we started receiving text message alerts, but I only received the follow-ups,” Gladden said.
The evacuation also left students off campus, living in the Riverside, Far West and East Campus areas with no way to get home for almost three hours.
Capital Metro UT shuttles could not enter campus after the evacuation was announced. Capital Metro spokesperson Erica Masioge said shuttles were back on their regular routes at 12:30 p.m. UT shuttles and regular routes that run through the University stopped running or were rerouted after UTPD informed Capital Metro about the evacuation at 10 a.m.
“We couldn’t get any bus to campus until we got the clear from the University,” she said.
Additional reporting by Mary Ellen Knewtson and Alexa Ura.