UT Bomb Threat Declared a Hoax; Response Questioned

UT freshmen Utkarsh Paul (l), Joesph Zukis (c) and Jorge Mathuta (r) were evacuated from their dorms after receiving a text message from UT warning them of a possible threat. (September 14, 2012)
UT freshmen Utkarsh Paul (l), Joesph Zukis (c) and Jorge Mathuta (r) were evacuated from their dorms after receiving a text message from UT warning them of a possible threat. (September 14, 2012)

Calling the bomb threat that forced thousands of students, staff and faculty off of the University of Texas at Austin campus on Friday morning a hoax, officials deemed it safe to re-enter campus buildings after finding no weapons in campus buildings.

"President Bill Powers, his staff and the UT and Austin Police forces responded quickly and appropriately to ensure the safety and protection of everyone on campus," UT System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell  said in a statement.

Just hours after the incident, though, questions were already percolating about how officials handled the threat. At about 8:35 a.m., a caller told university staff that bombs around campus would detonate 90 minutes from the call. UT officials did not issue an emergency text alert to the campus until about 9:50, just 15 minutes before the supposed time of detonation. President Bill Powers said at a press conference that university officials waited to issue a notification until they could evaluate the credibility of the threat.

"It’s easy to make a [threatening] phone call," Powers said.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the day, but university operations were schedule to resume at 5 p.m., officials announced.

"We are extremely confident that the campus is safe," Powers said.

UT chief of police Robert Dahlstrom said the university is working closely with local, state and federal to apprehend the caller and evaluate the university's response to the threat.

In a university notice ordering the evacuation of the "40-acre" campus, officials stated that the caller had a "Middle Eastern accent." Powers said he did not know why the alert included that detail.

This morning, North Dakota State University also received a bomb threat, which officials have cleared without finding weapons.

 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.