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Net threat

After the city was turned upside down, authorities learn Wednesday’s threat to NMU was one of a series of Internet postings sent to universities

February 3, 2011
By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - Classes resumed today at Northern Michigan University after campus officials said there was "no longer a clear and ongoing threat."

"We would not make the decision to reopen campus if we did not feel that it is safe to do so," NMU President Les Wong said in a news release.

The campus of roughly 9,000 students was locked down Wednesday morning after school officials were tipped to a threat posted on a blog site. Campus officials said Wednesday night new information revealed no evidence that the anonymous blog post originated on campus.

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Police determined similarly worded messages had been directed at several other U.S. universities recently and in a prior year.

"NMU Public Safety will maintain increased patrols throughout campus as an added precaution, but we think the new information uncovered tonight diminishes the threat to NMU," Wong said.

NMU News Director Kristi Evans said campus public safety officials, along with federal agents, are continuing to investigate the threat, but they are now focused on a wider area and more on "who pressed the send button."

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Northern Michigan University President Les Wong speaks at a press conference Wednesday afternoon about the professional response to a threat at the university. (Journal photo by John Pepin)

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, campus police said no arrests have been made, but police were interviewing witnesses and had developed a possible Marquette County suspect.

"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.

Evans said police may still be talking to some people locally today, but the probe moved in a different direction after determining similar threats had been made to other universities.

"The investigation did take a shift," Evans said.

Bath said some of the police interviews conducted Wednesday included 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."

Wong said university officials considered the threat 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."

Evans said federal agents have asked NMU officials not to reveal the content of the threat because similar messages have been directed toward other schools and the investigation is continuing. Evans said school officials would neither confirm nor deny whether messages said to be posted online, purporting to be the threat NMU received, are genuine.

Bath said 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.

"We take the safety of our Northern Michigan University community and our neighbors very, very seriously," Wong said Wednesday. "No one ever wants to confront these types of threats, but we were prepared."

Meanwhile, the Superior Central Schools in Eben Junction were locked down for about an hour Wednesday after students discovered a threat written on a wall. School officials decided to close the school and at about 1 p.m. contacted Michigan State Police troopers from the Munising post.

Troopers said the message was a generalized threat, which was not time-specific. After police assessed the threat, school officials, in consultation with police, decided to re-open the school at about 2:15 p.m. and the school day ended without further incident. Police are continuing to investigate that incident.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is jpepin@miningjournal. net.



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