Students are on edge after an online threat to carry out a massacre on campus of the University of Maryland. News4's Pat Collins reports.
Police arrested a University of Maryland, College Park student who allegedly threatened violence against the school. The school’s Department of Public Safety said it received information that an individual posted comments of a threatening nature on the Internet.
On Saturday, the student allegedly wrote, “I will be on a shooting rampage tomorrow on campus…hopefully I kill enough people to make it to national news... stay away from the mall tomorrow at 1:30.”
An investigation of the postings led to the arrest of Alexander Song, 19, of Fulton, Md., on Sunday. Song, a current student at UMCP, was taken to a local hospital for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. Song was shaking and crying when he was taken into custody, campus Police Chief David Mitchell said. The university sent out an alert at 11:30 a.m. Sunday informing students of his arrest.
Mitchell said police didn't alert the campus sooner because they had established surveillance and they knew were Song was and didn't want to tip him off with a campus alert.
"We felt that we had the situation contained, and the last thing that we wanted to do was to alert the entire campus, including Mr. Song, that we were looking for him and therefore causing a precipitation event" Mitchell said.
Police said Song was unarmed at the time of his arrest. Police did not find weapons in his dorm room or his parents' home, the Associated Press reported.
Song is charged with misdemeanor disturbing the orderly conduct of the activities, administration or classes of UMCP. Police said Song’s charge is a misdemeanor, which carries a fine no greater than $2,500 and/or jail time of six months maximum.
“I thank our troops for preventing these threats from being carried out,” Mitchell said.
The threatening post was on Reddit.com and was spotted by a former UMD student, who first tipped campus police. Two people anonymously reported threatening posts during chats with Song on Omegle.com, the AP reported.
In one of the chats, a person said he was going to call the police unless Song admitted that he was joking around, the police chief said.
Song responded by saying words to the effect of, "LOL. Go ahead. You don't even know what campus I'm talking about," the chief said.
"The best security we have is us looking after each other,” Mitchell said. ``And that's exactly what happened. Three people saw online postings and called us.”
Song was questioned about a week ago after police responded to Song's dormitory after a report of a man screaming, authorities said.
"He told us he was feeling a little stressed out. There was nothing that would lead us to believe that he was a threat to himself or others,” Mitchell said.
It's unclear exactly what was stressing Song out, police said.
Song was a member of a campus research program for select honor students who explore how science and technology relates with society, according to the university's website. The Gemstone Program lists Song as scheduled to graduate in 2014.
Song was one of the leaders of a student research team, Be Pure, that was studying ways to make methane gas safe for energy consumption, said James Wallace, a mechanical engineering professor and director of the Gemstone Program.
Steven Hutcheson, the team's advisor, said Song had once been one of the more vocal members of the team but had recently appeared quieter. Hutcheson and a couple students who knew Song said there was no indication that he was unhappy or capable of violence.
“I wish there had been something because I would have loved to have helped him,” Hutcheson said.
Anjana Sekaran, another member of the Be Pure team, said she had known Song since last year, “and he is a very intelligent, good-natured individual. He would never hurt anyone.”
Song’s student status was immediately suspended by the University. He is no longer permitted on campus pending a review.
Photo credit: University of Maryland Dept. of Public Safety