Law enforcement continues investigation of threatening post to Austin schools

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A UTPD officer talks with students at an event at the San Jacinto Residence Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

This story has been updated throughout since its original publication.

Following the discovery of a 4chan post threatening school campuses in Austin, law enforcement agencies continued investigating the source of the threat on Tuesday.

UTPD notified students through an email at 10:33 p.m. Monday night that the post, which has since been deleted, was a “non-credible threat.” As of press time, school, local, state and federal agencies were still trying to determine who made the threat.

UTPD did not increase the number of officers on campus Tuesday but increased their visibility to ensure a more prominent presence at UT, according to UTPD Chief David Carter.

The threat came days after a Thursday post on 4chan warned students in the Northwest not to go to school Friday. A shooting occurred at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Friday, resulting in the death of nine people and the shooter, who died by suicide.

Carter said there were several factors that went into determining the credibility of the Austin threat.  

“There’s a combination of things you look at — number one is you look at the specific language, you look at the construction [of the post],” Carter said. “Is there a specific threat or a target of some kind? Is there something implied?”

Nursing senior Sandra Vega said she appreciated UTPD’s efforts to communicate the nature of the threat to the University community, however, she said she felt the department should have provided more details about how they determined the threat’s credibility.

“I think they did a great job listening to our concerns,” Vega sad. “But … even though they stated the threat was ‘not credible,’ I still feel like they needed more justification, as in, the threat was not credible because of ‘X’ facts.”

UTPD is deliberate about notifying campus if a threat is credible, Carter said in an email to UT employees.

“If there is no credible threat, notifying campus would cause unnecessary alarm and potentially reduce community members’ level of vigilance when a real threat emerges,” Carter said in the email.

Law student Alec Puente said he felt UTPD was too quick to dismiss students’ concerns. Although Puente said he went to class, he knew of some people who did not attend because of the threat.

“You do think twice before going in to the bigger areas on campus,” Puente said. “I talked to some friends who said they were going to avoid the PCL or the SAC.”

Several threats with almost identical language to the Austin threat have been sent out regarding other cities in the U.S., Joseph Chacon, commander of the Austin Police Department’s intelligence division, said at a press conference. Because of the post’s vague language and resemblance to other recent threats, Chacon said he thinks students should have felt safe going to school.

“I think that it’s safe to go to school,” Chacon said. “Having said that, could there be a lone wolf actor who has bad intent? I think that’s a possibility … [People] just have to have that awareness and be ready for it.”

UTPD Officer William Pieper said the campus police department has the training and equipment necessary to effectively neutralize an active shooter situation on campus.

“All of our cars are equipped with active-shooter gear, including ballistic vests that will take rifle rounds, ballistic helmets that will take rifle rounds and our cars all have shotgun rifles,” Pieper said.

According to Pieper, all UTPD officers complete the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program, or ALERRT, a program operated by Texas State University that teaches law enforcement officers time-tested methods to defuse active-shooter situations as quickly as possible, while ensuring the safety of nearby civilians.

Pieper said that UTPD officers would act in accordance with their training in the ALERRT program if an active-shooter situation was confirmed on campus. In minutes, UTPD officers would form teams and make their way into the building to look for the shooter. In the meantime, dispatchers would activate the emergency broadcast system to urge the University community to stay away from the building the shooter is located in and lock themselves into any other building on campus.

This follows a Sunday 4chan post threatening Philadelphia-area schools that led to increased police presence at some Philadelphia universities Monday. In what sources say was an unrelated incident, a suspect was apprehended and placed in police custody Tuesday after an armed man pulled a gun on a student at the Community College of Philadelphia. No shots were fired, and no injuries were reported.

Zainab Calcuttawala, Samantha Ketterer and Jack Mitts contributed to this report.

See our original report here.

If you are a student concerned about the situation and need to talk to someone about it, here are some University resources:

UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Crisis Line: 512-471-2255

Behavior Concerns Advice Line: 512-232-5050

UT Police Department (for emergencies): 512-232-5050

UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Services: (512) 471-3515