“One of the many things we’re looking into is the possible connection to the other hoax calls,” said Erik Vasys, a spokesperson for the San Antonio division investigating the UT bomb threat.
The bomb threat came at the end of a week when two other false alarm situations near UT had already disrupted campus. Eight campus buildings’ fire alarms were pulled Monday, forcing evacuations. A squad of University and Austin police officers closed off an area around the corner of 24th and Guadalupe streets Thursday while they investigated a suspicious cooler left on the sidewalk. The area was closed for an hour until police were able to determine the cooler was not dangerous.
UTPD Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom said his department is communicating with the other two colleges that received bomb threats Friday through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an FBI partnership with other law enforcement agencies focused on cases involving terrorism.
“I don’t know that this is related to the other incidents at all, but when you look into these situations, you have to look at what is going on everywhere,” Dahlstrom said.
UT was the first to receive a threat by phone at approximately 8:35 a.m. North Dakota received its bomb threat by phone at approximately 9:45 a.m. and Hiram College received a threatening email at approximately 4 p.m. At UT, 69,000 people received an emergency text message to leave all campus buildings, according to a UT statement.
Dean Bresciani, North Dakota State University president, said about 20,000 people evacuated North Dakota State’s Fargo campus Friday, according to the Associated Press. Hiram College has 1,300 students. Authorities evacuated, searched and declared all three schools safe Friday. At a press conference Friday, UT President William Powers Jr. said he had information about whether or not the events were related but could not provide it because the investigation was ongoing.
Valparaiso University, a private college in Indiana, also received threats Friday that turned out to be false but did not evacuate campus. Valparaiso notified students Friday morning that it had received an unspecified threat stating “dangerous and criminal” activity would occur at 11:15 a.m., according to a statement released Friday. The university found graffiti in one of its bathrooms, implying criminal activity might occur during the school’s chapel break. The school had no reason to believe the threat was connected with incidents at the University of Texas and North Dakota State University, according to its statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those institutions for the anxiety they experienced today,” Valparaiso University Provost Mark Schwehn wrote in the statement.
Also on Friday, authorities in Kansas City, Mo., closed off several blocks to investigate a vehicle believed to contain a bomb. A man walked into a downtown federal office building to ask if he was on a terrorist watch list and was detained while officers searched his car, according to The Kansas City Star. After four hours of searching, the FBI determined the car contained nothing threatening.
Printed on Monday, September 17, 2012 as: Fake threats across U.S. catch FBI's attention