Lafayette receives bomb threat, college says no indication it was “credible” after search

A screenshot of the preview screen of the now suspended Twitter account, @BdanJafarSaleem

In an email to the Lafayette community at 1:37 p.m. today, President Alison Byerly said that law enforcement is working to identify the source of a threat made against the college last night. The investigation is led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), assisted by Lafayette Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Easton Police Department (EPD), she wrote.

In tweets from the now-suspended account @BdanJafarSaleem and in a post on the website Pastebin, threats were made by someone claiming to be a current Lafayette student in Economics, who now pledged allegiance to ISIS. The Pastebin post said the following: “I have set up several pipe bombs, pressure cookers and nail bombs around the campus and plan to inflict the utmost damage possible.” The post went up yesterday at 6:48 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT), according to the timestamp, and therefore 7:48 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

At 8:24 p.m. last night, “a threat to the Lafayette community was made via an unidentified email,” President Byerly wrote to the campus community. No more details were given regarding the email or the nature of the email’s contained threat. Asked for more details, Byerly wrote in an email, “I am afraid we are not able to comment on the investigation.”

(Updated at 9:40 p.m.): The college has confirmed that the posts from Jafar Saleem are the threat being investigated.

The first email sent to the “campus mailing list” from Lafayette Department of Public Safety (DPS) was sent at 10:45 p.m., which read, “DPS working with law enforcement agencies. If off-campus stay off-campus. Remain calm. Report suspicious activity to 4444.” The first text sent out via Public Safety’s emergency alert system, which recipients must sign up for, was at 11:40 p.m., saying, “Active investigation cont w DPS, EPD, FBI. Officers from each agency will be inspecting each building on campus.”

“As noted in our message late last night, law enforcement officials did not find any indication that the threat made to the campus was credible,” Byerly wrote in her latest email update.

“Within minutes of receipt of the threatening email Lafayette Public Safety was alerted.  An investigation was initiated that involving Easton Police Department and the FBI as well as Public Safety,” Byerly wrote in her first email to the community.

During the uncertainty last night, the tweets and the post spread amongst students. Many sheltered in place in their dorms and even in academic buildings. Some left the area. However, Byerly wrote in an email that public safety “did not initiate a ‘lockdown.'” She added, “Public Safety advised those on campus to remain where they are, and those off campus to remain off campus,” but students were “not being prevented from leaving buildings if they wish.”

“After an extensive room by room search of the campus there were no malicious or hazardous materials found,” said an email update from Lafayette Public Safety at 2:44 a.m. last night. Byerly wrote in an email to The Lafayette that she was at public safety until 4 a.m. last night.

Commenters on Lafayette’s Facebook posts were upset with the college’s communication. Lafayette’s first Facebook post about the incident was at 10:56 p.m. last night.

“Use the emergency alert system. Not a Facebook post. Unacceptable,” wrote one commenter. Others, some of whom said they were Lafayette parents, asked why there wasn’t an alert sent out sooner, given the about two-hour gap between the receipt of the threat and the notification sent to the community.

“A complete failure of communication,” said one comment. “Where is your emergency alert system? We heard about this over an hour ago and not from the college.” Some commenters defended the college, saying that responders were probably dealing with the situation at hand.

“Throughout last evening, we followed the advice of law enforcement about what information and actions would be most conducive to student safety as they assessed the threat,” Byerly wrote in her latest email at 1:37 p.m.

(Updated at 4:11 p.m.): All exams previously scheduled for tomorrow (Monday) have been moved to Sunday, May 13.

“While we are relieved that the threat to campus was not found to be credible, the emotional and practical impact of the event was quite real. We understand that preparations for final exams and other coursework have been disrupted, and we recognize that students may need some additional time,” wrote Provost Abu Rizvi, Dean of the Faculty Robin Rinehart and Dean of Curriculum and Research Jamila Bookwala in an email.

This post will be updated as The Lafayette learns more from the administration, the student body and law enforcement.

This post originally stated that President Byerly wrote in an email that law enforcement was working to identify the source of a “bomb threat.” She never used the word “bomb” in her email, only “threat.” Corrected 3:33 p.m.

About Kathryn Kelly

Kathryn Kelly '19 is the editor-in-chief of The Lafayette. She studies government & law and Classics.

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