Bomb Threats Continue to Plague University in the Wake of Killingsby Omar Maglalang and Tricia Sangalang
Planet Blacksburg Staff
April 26, 2007
University officials revealed for the first time Thursday night that Virginia Tech has been peppered by four bomb threats in the past seven days, an uneasy development on the already-tense campus in the wake of the shootings on April 16.
Authorities apparently have sought to deal with the threats quickly by informing staff members in each of the targeted buildings and asking them not to discuss the issue publicly to avoid unnecessary alarm.
“Everybody in Torgersen was asked not to discuss it outside of the building,” explained an employee in Torgersen Hall who asked not to be identified.
It is not clear who made the decision not to go public on the threats. When state police and VT police were asked about the investigation, reporters from Planet Blacksburg were told that extra security on campus recently was only a precautionary measure in light of the shootings.
According to Mark Owczarski, the news director for the office of university relations, police told him that the bomb threats were vague, although they did target three different buildings-Torgersen Hall, the Student Services Building on Washington Street, and the Dean of Students’ Office on West Roanoke Street twice.
“When threats come in, they are all taken seriously,” Owczarski said. “They are all considered real.”
He also said that every threat had been investigated quickly, and in all cases, the threats were cleared.
“Cleared” is usually police jargon meaning an arrest was made in a case; however, no arrests have been made in this case and authorities apparently have not determined any suspects. In addition, Owczarski was not aware of how the threats were received.
One of the threats was made to an employee in Torgersen Hall at 10:49 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a Virginia Tech Police criminal incident report.
Police responded with K-9 teams and by noon, several officers were mulling about under the Torgersen Bridge on Alumni Mall Drive. Nearby students sensed that there was a possible bomb threat. One student phoned a friend to see if there was a university e-mail warning about a bomb threat. But there was none.
When they inquired about the increased state police presence at Torgersen Tuesday, reporters from Planet Blacksburg were told by VT police that they were patrolling to field questions, talk to people about concerns, and make faculty and students feel safe.
A rumor spread this week in Blacksburg about a possible tape found in Torgersen Tuesday threatening to avenge the killer in the shootings on April 16, but according to Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the state police, those rumors are unfounded.
“There was a threat,” she said, “but it was later found to be a hoax.
“We find a lot of these happening in events similar to tragedies in middle schools and high schools. This one was just a hoax.”
In the wake of disturbing events such as last week’s shootings, authorities were made aware that there would be similar incidents that could follow, according to Owczarski.
“Investigators have made it very clear that this is very common in the light of the magnitude of this tragedy,” he said.
As a result, authorities were prepared and have been on the lookout for trouble since the shootings, Owczarski said.
“After Monday’s events, it’s been different,” the university news director said, “since the increased presence of both Virginia State Police and Virginia Tech Police on campus has allowed (law enforcement) to respond efficiently and quickly” to all threats.
In the two weeks before the April 16 shootings, Virginia Tech had been hit with two bomb threats that targeted a variety of university buildings. In their investigation of the shootings, authorities have not established a connection between the horrific event and the bomb threats.