• Student charged for making threat against UT Brownsville campus


    UT-Brownsville  police arrested a UTB student in his late 20s Sunday afternoon after they say he called a crisis hotline at around 2 a.m. saying he had a bomb he was going to take to UTB and “blow up” a fellow student. 


    According to police, the caller said he was upset because the other student made a derogatory statement about him.  The caller’s name will be released after he is arraigned Monday. He is currently being held in the Cameron County Detention Center in Olmito, Tex. UTB police believe this case is not related to Friday’s bomb threat at UT-Austin, but are looking at all recent similar incidents across the nation for a connection. 


    The caller has been charged with making a terroristic threat, a third degree felony in this case, punishable with up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, as well as all possible civil liabilities.


    Police said the caller was arrested at his apartment in Harlingen, Texas, Police were able to trace the call and find out the man’s name by listening to the message on his answering machine. After cross-referencing that name with UTB records, they were able to locate the man and make the arrest. No bomb was found in the man’s apartment, and it was declared clear by 4 p.m. by the Brownsville police department bomb squad. 


    Assisting UTB police with the investigation and arrest were the Brownsville and Harlingen police, which includes the city of Brownsville bomb squad. 


    UTB police chief John Cardoza said he is very pleased with the effort of local authorities in this case. 


    “It was teamwork by all agencies involved,” he said. 


    Cardoza said his main concern throughout the investigation was the safety and welfare of all parties involved including authorities and the general public, causing him to treat the situation very carefully. 


    Cardoza said he stresses the importance of reporting criminal activity to ensure the safety of the public. 


    “”Report crime. Report concerns. Report threats,” he said. 

  • University pushes registration deadlines to Monday after bomb threat evacuations


    Registration related deadlines including tuition payment for added classes and the undergraduate add-drop period are extended to Monday, Sept. 17, UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said in an email.

    The deadlines were originally Friday, but because of the evacuation of buildings campus-wide and the University's decision to cancel classes Friday, the deadline was pushed back. Campus buildings were evacuated because of a bomb threat made against campus Friday morning.

    Along with payment for added classes and undergraduate add-drop, Friday was also the deadline for graduate students to add a class and for law students to add or drop a class with the dean's approval. It is also the last day to drop a class and still have the opportunity to receive a refund. The University pushed back these deadlines also.

    September 4 was the last day of official add-drop for undergraduate students. After this date, the registrar's calendar says "changes in registration may require the approval of the department chair and usually the student’s dean."

  • Initial bomb threat update from University raises concerns about racial bias

    UT community members have raised concerns of racial bias in the UT Police Department’s description of the man behind a false bomb threat to the UT campus Friday morning, and UTPD is standing behind its decision to release the information.  

    During the response to the threat, which included the evacuation of thousands of students, faculty and staff from all campus buildings, UT Police Department officers released a statement saying the caller was a man with a Middle Eastern accent who said he was affiliated with Al Qaeda. A source close to the situation said UTPD asked UT employees what the caller sounded like and if he had an accent. Employees told UTPD the caller had a light Middle Eastern accent.

    The call came through the University’s general phone line at 8:30 a.m., according to the source. The caller told an employee he was not a UT student, and there were bombs on campus going off in one to two hours.

    “The caller said he was calling from a phone booth in Austin, but the number didn’t have a 512 area code,” the source said.

    The caller would not say what building the bomb was in, the source said. The caller remained on the phone for more than 10 minutes while UT employees notified UTPD of the call. Police arrived shortly after the caller hung up, the source said.

    A UTPD spokesperson said they received notice of the call at 8:43 a.m. The University issued its first emergency notification at 9:53 a.m. via text message to 69,000 people.

    The source said UTPD questioned employees and began their investigation immediately. The source was told by a UTPD officer they needed to thoroughly investigate the phone call before panicking students because most bomb threats are “bottomless.”

    Associate English professor Snehal Shingavi said the description of the caller provided in the Universtiy statement could cause bias or discrimination toward Arab or Muslim students. Shingavi said he does not see why the University needed to release information regarding the caller’s accent.

    During the evacuation, Shingavi tweeted, “All Muslim students at UT, please be safe, and come to my office or contact me if you face any bias or hate or need any support.”

    “I want students to know they have access to faculty to help them deal with discrimination and bias they may face on campus,” Shingavi said after the campus had been reopened.

    UTPD Chief Robert E. Dahlstrom said they released the description in anticipation of requests from the public.

    “If we hadn’t put that out, we would be getting questions to release that information,” he said. “In a situation like this, we try to find out as much as we can about the person behind a bomb threat.” 

    Dahlstrom said asking for a description of a caller’s voice is part of the department’s standard response procedures. 

  • UT campus reopening after bomb threat evacuations

    University of Texas President Bill Powers speaks with the media following Friday morning’s evacuation of all UT campus buildings.
    University of Texas President Bill Powers speaks with the media following Friday morning’s evacuation of all UT campus buildings.

    Update 12:15 -- UT President William Powers Jr. at press conference: "There was always a question about the credibility of the threat," Powers said. "We could not assure ourselves this was not a credible threat, so we decided clearing all buildings was the prudent thing to do."

    From UT Safety Alert email: "Classes are cancelled for the remainder of Friday, September 14, 2012. University buildings may be re-entered effective noon today. All University operations except for scheduled classes will resume at 5:00 pm this date."

    UPDATE 11:50 -- UT has announced buildings may be reentered at noon. Classes are canceled for the day, but all other activities resume at 5 p.m.

    UT Police are holding a press conference at noon. 

    UPDATE 10:55 — A UT text alert says all buildings are being checked and cleared. The 90 minute period specified in the threat has passed. They'll announce soon whether classes and daily operations will resume, according to the text.

    UT sent out an emergency alert at 9:50 this morning urging all students, faculty and staff to "get as far away from campus as possible."

    According to a statement, "At 8:35 a.m. the university received a call from a male with a middle eastern accent claiming to have placed bombs all over campus. He said he was with Al Qaeda and these bombs would go off in 90 minutes. President Powers was notified and it was decided to evacuate all of the buildings out of an abundance of caution."

    UT officials and FBI personell are continuing to clear the buildings and have so far found no weapons. No one is being allowed back into the buildings. UT will continue to send out emergency alerts, though cell phone signal on many carriers is jammed. We'll post updates here as we have them.

    -Additional reporting done by Audrey White

  • Eight campus buildings evacuated after suspected false alarms

    UTPD said eight on-campus buildings were evacuated after witnesses reported a suspect pulling fire alarms across campus Monday afternoon.

    UTPD spokesperson Cindy Posey said the suspect is either White or Hispanic, in his 30s, is wearing a white T-shirt, blue jean shorts, a religious necklace, a blac k hat with red trim and is around 5 feet and 5 inches tall, 180 pounds and has short black hair.

    Posey said students are encouraged to call the police if they see him.

    As of 4:14 p.m., Posey said no emergencies had been confirmed, but UTPD was not ready to confirm that all the alarms were false alarms.

    Update at 6:04 p.m.: The description of the suspect was updated based on more information from UTPD spokesperson Cindy Posey.