Campus reopened after search
Authorities late Monday reopened LSU’s campus after issuing an evacuation order about 12 hours earlier because of a bomb threat called into the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
All classes and events scheduled for Tuesday will be held as planned, and university employees and students should plan to return to their normal schedules, according to a university news release.
While technicians and bomb-sniffing police dogs combed through the 250-plus buildings on campus Monday afternoon, administrators and law enforcement scrambled to make sure the 6,000 students who live on campus had a place to stay for the night. The students were allowed to return to residence halls at 6 p.m.
“We have to search every building, and there are hundreds of buildings,” LSU System President and Baton Rouge Chancellor William Jenkins said earlier before the campus was fully reopened at 11 p.m.
LSU students, faculty and staff began evacuating the campus’ 250 buildings about 11:30 a.m. Monday, about an hour after an unknown person called into the parish’s 911 call center and reported three bombs were placed on the campus, authorities said.
Federal investigators working with university, city and parish law enforcement officers launched an investigation into whether the threat was related to last week’s rash of bomb threats to college campuses in Texas, North Dakota and Ohio.
Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said the person responsible for the threat will face both state and federal felony charges including counts of terrorism.
“We will make sure we do everything possible to arrest and prosecute the person responsible for that phone call,” he said.
LSU Police Capt. Cory Lalonde declined to discuss the gender of the caller or release any specific details about the threat, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.
Once the threatening call was placed to the parish call center, it was relayed to LSU Police then to Jenkins, who gave the evacuation order shortly afterward.
“We didn’t get the threat directly, it took about an hour, and then we made the decision immediately to evacuate,” Jenkins said. “The decision had to be made to protect those for whom we are responsible ... We hope it’s a hoax, but we can’t take that chance.”
In a similar scene, tens of thousands of students evacuated the University of Texas at Austin, the North Dakota State University in Fargo and Hiram College in northeast Ohio after bomb threats were reported on those campuses last week.
U.S. Attorney Don Cazayoux said Monday the FBI has joined the investigation and is working with state and local authorities to determine if the bomb threat at LSU is connected with the threats reported at the other schools.
“From the information my office received, the caller said there were three bombs on LSU’s campus,” Cazayoux said. “We’re investigating fully and we’re going to look at all the angles.”
Cazayoux added that law enforcement hasn’t yet come up with any theories concerning the motive behind the threat.
Monday’s evacuation unfolded in the late morning through the help of social media as students, faculty and staff were told to leave campus via text messages and emails.
According to LSU professor Bob Mann, uncertainty followed as some people who received a text instructing them to evacuate didn’t know if they were supposed to evacuate individual buildings, their immediate surrounding or the entire campus.
“The original message was a little confusing,” Mann said.
Meanwhile, traffic in the central part of the campus slowed to a standstill once the evacuation was under way. Buses packed with students were not moving as other students who couldn’t get on a bus waited for more to arrive.
LSU authorities said they couldn’t estimate how many of the university’s roughly 29,000 students and 3,000 faculty and staff were on campus when the evacuation started.
Near the corner of Highland Road and West Parker Boulevard, students walked calmly off the campus, blocking the rain with umbrellas and rain jackets.
Emily Martinez, 22, said she had just finished a math exam when she got the university’s text calling for the evacuation.
“It was probably a student calling it in because they were trying to get out of an exam,” the civil engineering student said. “I’m not worried.”
Other students, such as Maggie Robert, 21, took the threat more seriously. The public relations student said someone in her theater class said there was a bomb threat and students started to leave the class and the building.
“It was kind of scary,” Robert said. “People were freaking out a little.”
On Monday afternoon, a few reports of glitches in LSU’s emergency notification system started to filter in.
Business major Michal Dedon, 21, said even though she signed up to receive the emergency text messages, she did not get a message about the bomb evacuation.
“I was walking on campus and heading to class and one girl, just one girl, stopped me and said, ‘You might not want to head that way because there’s a bomb threat.’ If she wouldn’t have said something, I would have just kept going,” Dedon said.
The LSU website, www.lsu.edu, will continue to be updated as information becomes available. Anyone with information is urged to contact the LSU Police at (225) 578-3231.
Bob Anderson, Steven Ward and Amy Wold contributed to this report.