Threats made against Austin-area schools deemed ‘not credible’

(Jackie Vega/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University in San Marcos have responded to online posts on 4chan, an online bulletin board, that appeared to threaten area schools. Police in Central Texas say they have a suspect.

In a statement, the UT police department said they are aware of a threatening post “making the rounds on social media”, but do not consider it a credible threat at this time.

The department added that they will alert the entire community when a threat is deemed credible. The Austin police department stated they are working closely with other agencies, like the FBI, and reiterated that the threat so far has not been found to be credible.

At around 11 p.m. Monday, the Texas State University police department released a statement that said they had also received several inquiries regarding threatening social media posts. The department said they are working to identify the sources and to determine if the posts are a credible threat. Texas State University police confirmed to KXAN that they are responding to the same threat as the one addressed by UT Austin police.

“It didn’t seem like the risk was worth it,” said Marlon Saucedo, who missed morning class. He didn’t feel comfortable after the threat. Later in the afternoon, he says his Italian professor canceled class because too many students skipped.

“I read into what happened in Oregon. But the more I read about it. The more eerie and, I don’t know, kind of worrying it was.” said Saucedo.

“I’m going to tell you right now that I think it’s safe to go to school. I had my child in school today,” said Commander Joseph Chacon with APD. He says someone posted a threat Monday in Pennsylvania. Tuesday, police arrested a man in Philadelphia and put a campus on lock down. APD shares information with Philly police through the National Fusion Center Network.

“We saw the same threat going across the country, with the exact same wording. All they did was replace the name of the city,” said Chacon.

Police here say they have a suspect but there’s not a strong enough local connection to believe the Austin threat was real.

The chief of police at the University of Texas says they don’t think this threat was credible because of the lack of specific locations mentioned. The threat just said “Austin students”.

“Look at it again. Look at the sheer number of people that are actually on social media. Somebody is going to make a silly comment, or some stupid comment, or something that could be seen as a threat. We recognize that,” said UT Police Chief David Carter.

The UT, St. Edward’s and Texas State police departments asked their respective students to report any suspicious activity.

St. Edward’s University police ask if you see anything that can be deemed suspicious to call 512-448-8444. In a statement, St. Edward’s tells students an active shooter protocol dictates shelter in place, lock doors, turn off lights, silence cell phones, and wait for further instructions from law enforcement.

The Austin Regional Intelligence Center helps coordinate that sharing of information locally. APD says they have a daily working relationship with the FBI cyber task force, which monitors these threats nationwide.

The penalties for making a threat to attack a school campus can range from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony. In Texas, a threat that leads to an emergency response, or places an individual in fear of serious injury is a Class B misdemeanor. That carries a fine of up to $2,000 dollars and up to six months in jail. If the threat makes a large number of people fear for their safety, the penalty can rise to a state jail felony. That means a person convicted could face two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 dollars.

Campus police encourage students to sign up for mobile alerts. It’s an important tool to notify people quickly about a dangerous situation on campus.  UT Police also post informational videos about steps to take in case of an active shooter on campus. They highlight the “Run, Hide, Fight” scenarios – and show how law enforcement would respond to an active shooter.

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