MARQUETTE - Campus public safety officials, along with federal agents, are continuing to investigate a threat deemed credible, posted on a blog site, that shut down Northern Michigan University today, with police saying classes may not resume Thursday.
No arrests have been made, but police are interviewing witnesses and have developed a possible suspect from Marquette County.
"We are currently looking at a person of interest, the investigation is ongoing," said Mike Bath, director of NMU Public Safety. Bath declined to reveal the gender or any other details about the possible suspect.
Police are looking at the threat as possibly still active.
"As a precaution, classes have been canceled for this evening and we're going to make a decision on whether we're going to open up tomorrow or not," Bath said.
Bath said if classes are to resume Thursday, campus officials have not determined whether they would start at 8 a.m. or whether there would be a delayed opening.
"We're still investigating this and we want to make sure we've got all of our bases covered," Bath said.
Bath said some of the police interviews include NMU students.
"We're talking to a couple of individuals, some are students, some are not. But the ones that we are looking at are here in town, in the county." Bath said. "Just looking at witnesses and doing follow-up on comments that were made."
NMU President Les Wong said university officials considered the threat to be credible.
"Upon receipt of the warning of a possible threat, we activated our emergency response protocols as we took this threat extremely seriously," Wong said.
Bath said the threat was received prior to 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"Early this morning we received information from an individual that saw a post on an anonymous blog site indicating a threat to the university," Bath said. "We determined that it was a serious enough threat that we initiated our emergency protocols, which included our text messaging alert, our computer barge in, campus emails and our university website and contacted all the local media."
Agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are working the investigation with campus safety officers, who have also been aided by Marquette City Police.
"Right now, the FBI is looking at it because of the Internet aspects of the case," Bath said.
Bath said federal agents instructed him not to reveal the content of the threat because of the ongoing investigation.
University officials were tipped to the blog posting.
"We had an individual who contacted the university who was not from the area," Bath said. "It was somebody that alerted us and it was on a blog site."
Bath said the blog site is still up and running, but the post is no longer there.
"It was a serious enough threat that we felt we needed to initiate...to shut down the campus, have those that would normally report to work not report to work," Bath said. "I don't want to get into specifics because it is an ongoing investigation and the FBI has asked that we not reveal that until they can get through their process and analyzing it to see if it's tied to anything else."
Police said a rumor of a hostage situation at the university today was false.
"At no time did we have a hostage situation on campus," Bath said.
Marquette police said after learning of the threat, they contacted Marquette Area Public Schools officials and Marquette General Hospital to formulate a response. Decisions were made to close down schools and monitor entrances at the hospital. Michigan State Police troopers said a Homeland Security team was in the area and county and state emergency management coordinators were being apprised of developments throughout the day.
"We take the safety of our Northern Michigan University community and our neighbors very, very seriously," Wong said. "No one ever wants to confront these types of threats, but we were prepared."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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