Police following up on EKU graffiti threat tips

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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - An Eastern Kentucky University spokesperson said the $10,000 reward the university offered yesterday has brought in some tips about the graffiti threat incident.

Late Sunday night, EKU Police say someone found a message written on the wall of a men's bathroom inside the Powell Building. The message said, "KILL ALL BY 10/8/15 THIS BU OOP."

"It's a little hard to understand what the handwriting at the end of that message means. Police are investigating that. They're sharing information with partner agencies to determine if there is another meaning for it or if it's just a handwriting mistake," EKU spokesperson Kristi Middleton said.

EKU officials postponed some smaller events throughout the week so they could focus on providing security at larger events. A campus forum Monday night and a lecture series event Thursday night will both be rescheduled.

Model Laboratory School is a K-12 school on EKU's campus. Administrators there decided to close Tuesday through Thursday. They were already scheduled to be off Friday.

"It's a much younger population and they look at safety issues differently than a college campus that is full of primarily adults," Middleton said.

EKU has not canceled classes. However, President Michael Benson encouraged students who had concerns to make plans with their professors to get work done outside of class on a case-by-case basis.

"If they really are feeling a sense of anxiety and do not want to be here they will be able to make up work, get excuses with their absences. We want to be understanding that this could cause some uneasiness for some of our students," Middleton said.

Monday afternoon, EKU President Michael Benson posted a letter to the campus community.

"Let me be absolutely clear: threats such as this will not be tolerated and the person or persons responsible will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. To make such a threat is a felony and we will make every attempt to find those at fault and ensure that this does not happen again," a portion of the letter read. The full text is at the bottom of this article.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, Kentucky State Police, Richmond Police, Berea Police, and the Madison County Sheriff's Office are all helping with the investigation.

EKU freshman Ashley McCowan said it was unnerving, especially after the campus shooting in Oregon last week.

"I feel like I wouldn't have been as scared if the shootings hadn't happened," she said.

McCowan's sister, Whitney, said she generally feels safe on campus.

"There's a lot of security systems and safe places you can go for help if you need it," she said.

EKU Police said late Monday morning that the university would offer a $10,000 reward for the "identification, arrest and conviction of the responsible person or persons".

"I think, given the climate at universities across the country, certainly campus safety and threats of violence are going to be taken very seriously and EKU is no exception. This is a crime just to make the threat. Even if there is no action associated with it, the threat is a criminal offense so we want to find whoever is responsible for this and also send a message that it will not be tolerated here," Middleton said.

Students said they weren't sure whether the threat was serious.

"I don't really think anyone who is going to shoot up a school would post it on the bathroom wall," Todd Farrell said.

After other shootings, though, Ashley McCowan said you can't be too careful.

"Sometimes it just pops into my mind that they're just doing it for attention and it doesn't really mean anything, but then there's that little voice inside your head that says maybe they are actually going to do something," she said.

Even if it is just a prank, students said it shouldn't have happened.

"This is a great school. They can take that somewhere else. We didn't do anything to them. Maybe this is a personal matter between them and someone else but they don't really need to take it out on everybody else," Deandre Eubanks said.

This is the second time this year there has been threatening graffiti at EKU. There was a similar incident in February. In that case, the message was found in a bathroom at Combs Hall.

EKU Police ask anyone with information to call them at (859) 622-1111. You can also report tips anonymously online at http://www.police.eku.edu/eku-tip-reporting.

EKU officials decided to close Model Laboratory School on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The following message was posted to EKU's public safety website.

"IMPORTANT MODEL UPDATE
This morning, a threatening message was found in a bathroom in Eastern Kentucky University’s Powell Building. The threat is detailed at http://police.eku.edu/public-safety-alert-updates.
After a meeting of Model Laboratory School, College of Education and EKU administrators along with Public Safety officials, a decision has been made to close Model Laboratory School for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (October 6-8). October 9 is a professional development day for faculty and staff only at Model Laboratory School. October 12-13 continue to be Fall Break days when EKU and Model are closed. The next date Model students will be in school will be Wednesday, October 14.
All Model Lab extracurricular activities scheduled on the Model or EKU main campus will be cancelled through October 8. Coaches and sponsors may arrange practices with approval from the director or athletic director at off-campus locations.
This plan will require many adjustments from everyone, but the top concern is the safety of our Model Pre-K through 12th grade students. Many factors were considered in making this decision. The Model Site Based Council will work on an amended school year schedule. We appreciate the cooperation and support of parents, faculty, staff, EKU Public Safety, and the community,"

EKU President Michael Benson's letter to the campus community:

From the Office of the President:

In light of the recent tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, I am acutely aware that this morning’s announcement concerning a threat of violence posted in one of our campus buildings is disturbing and unsettling for all of us.

Let me be absolutely clear: threats such as this will not be tolerated and the person or persons responsible will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. To make such a threat is a felony and we will make every attempt to find those at fault and ensure that this does not happen again.

At the same time, I want to assure you that the University is taking this threat very seriously, and is committed to maintaining a safe learning environment where faculty can teach, staff can serve, and students can achieve their educational, personal, and professional goals. This will be increasingly evident as we bolster security throughout our buildings and grounds and involve local, state and federal agencies in that work.

As we continue to assess and respond to the threat, the University will remain open and committed to our mission. Students who choose not to attend class will be required to make up any missed work and should coordinate assignments with their respective faculty members. We will continue to reassess campus operations and make adjustments as warranted in the coming hours and days.

Already, a number of campus activities are being rescheduled to allow law enforcement to dedicate its resources to provide an increased police presence at primary university activities, including classes and large events. Announcements on rescheduling of individual events will be made through the event organizer and posted on the University’s home page. I want to encourage all members of the campus community to join in what needs to be a campus-wide effort to face this challenge with unity and resolve.

To reiterate an earlier announcement, the University is offering a $10,000 reward for the identification, arrest and conviction of the responsible person or persons. Anyone who may have information regarding this case is asked to call EKU Police at (859) 622-1111. Also, an online tip form is available to notify the Police of information that can be used to identify the responsible individual. This online form can be found at http://www.police.eku.edu/eku-tip-reporting.

All of us join our Police Department in encouraging members of our campus community to remain vigilant in ensuring the safety of themselves and their fellow Colonels.

I like to think of EKU as a family and our campus as our home. Family members look out for each other. We do not and will not allow anyone to intimidate us or to create an environment where any of us does not feel welcomed or safe. But we will also leave to each of our family members the right to decide what they choose to do in the days ahead. Work with your faculty, staff and student colleagues to adjust schedules in the coming days as you think appropriate.

If you are a member of the EKU campus community, and you haven’t already done so, I urge you to register your personal communication devices with the RAVE emergency communication system. This will allow you to have the most current information on campus safety alerts. Click https://web4s.eku.edu/prod/twbkwbis.P_WWWLogin to register with RAVE via EKU Direct.

Others interested in receiving EKU emergency messages should:

Go to the Eastern Kentucky University account on the RAVE web page (http://www.getrave.com/login/eku).

Click the Register button in the upper right hand corner.

Register your information and select to receive text, voice, and/or email messaging.

Thank you for your continued service to EKU.

Yours sincerely,

Michael T. Benson

President



 
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