Bomb scares cause lock-downs, evacuations at US colleges

Perceived threats come a day after fatal Virginia Tech attack that left 33 dead.

students on grass 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
students on grass 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Campus bomb scares and perceived threats forced lock-downs and evacuations at universities in Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee on Tuesday, a day after a Virginia Tech student's shooting rampage killed 33 people. In Austin, Texas, authorities evacuated buildings at St. Edward's University after a threatening note was found, a school official said. Police secured the perimeter around the campus and were searching the buildings, St. Edward's University spokeswoman Mischelle Amador said. She declined to say where the note was found and said its contents were "nonspecific." At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, officials ordered three campus administration buildings evacuated for almost two hours Tuesday morning in response to a telephone bomb threat. The city's bomb squad searched the buildings but found nothing, campus spokesman Chuck Cantrell said. Cantrell said there was no reason to believe the bogus threat was related to the shootings at Virginia Tech, but "we just chose to err on the side of caution today." The third scare, at the University of Oklahoma, also was determined to be unfounded. It started with a report that someone had been spotted carrying a suspicious object on campus, officials said. The man was carrying an umbrella and not a weapon, and he later identified himself to authorities, University of Oklahoma President David Boren said in a statement. He initially had said the person was believed to carrying a yoga mat. At St. Edward's in Austin, students who live on campus were being allowed to return to their dormitories as police finished searching each building, Amador said. Faculty, staff and all other students were asked to stay away from the campus, and morning and afternoon classes were canceled. About 5,200 students are enrolled at the Catholic university south of downtown Austin. Amador said the university's reaction was not influenced by Monday's attack at Virginia Tech. "No matter what day or when this would have happened, we will always take the necessary precautions to protect our students, our faculty, our staff, the entire university community," she said. In Louisiana, parents withdrew hundreds of students from a high school and middle school amid reports that a man had been arrested for allegedly threatening a mass killing in a note that alluded to the murders at Virginia Tech. Jerry Payne, superintendent of the Bogalusa city schools, said police arrested a 53-year-old man who allegedly made the threat in a note he passed Tuesday morning to a student on his way to school. Police officials did not immediately return calls for comment.