Two bomb threats in four days

By Samuel Charles

Within a span of four days, the college received what it termed as two “suspicious phone calls” leading to an evacuation of one building and a bomb sweep of another.

The first incident occurred on Nov. 1, at the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building, when a message was found on an employee’s voicemail saying, “Kill the administrative president … BOOM,” according to the Chicago Police Department report.

The message was left at 4:40 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, but was not discovered until 10 a.m. the following Monday.

At 12:17 p.m., an order was given to evacuate the building, and at 12:23 p.m. Columbia’s Emergency Notification System sent alerts via text messages, e-mails and recorded phone calls to students, faculty and staff to notify them of the threat.

“The 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building is closed until further notice,” the message said. “Classes and events are canceled. Please go to other buildings. More information will be provided by 1 p.m.”

Several Chicago police officers were stationed outside the building to prevent anyone from entering. At 2:22 p.m., a police dog was brought in to search the building.

Faculty, staff and students waited outside while the building was inspected. They were instructed by police officers and security guards to remain under the scaffolding of the South Campus Building, 624 S. Michigan Ave., and the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave.

At 3:21 p.m., an alert was sent announcing that the inspection was complete, and the building was re-opened.

Martha Meegan, director of Campus Safety and Security, declined to comment about the incident.

The Marketing Communication Depart-ment, located on the eighth floor of the South Campus Building, took further action, according to Marketing Communication adjunct faculty member Matt Carlson.

“We were teaching at about 3 p.m. and the associate chair [Tom Hamilton] came down and said the chair [Margaret Sullivan] ordered the office be closed,”

Carlson said.

There was a sign in the Marketing Communication Department, posted by Hamilton that read: “Given the bomb threat at 618 S. Michigan Ave. today, hold or cancel classes at your own discretion.”

The Marketing Communication Department was the only department in the building to alter its class schedule because of the phone call, Carlson said.

“The library, Humanities Department and Fiction Writing Department were fully functional,” Carlson said. “We were given no directive by the police department or any kind of security authority. I went to the library, fiction writing and humanities [departments], and it was business as usual.”

The next day, Nov. 2, another “suspicious phone call” was received at the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building at approximately 1:30 p.m., according to an e-mail from Columbia President Warrick L. Carter.

The caller warned of an explosive device within the building.

“There is a bomb in the building, get the f— out,” the caller said, according to the police report.

The call was deemed non-credible and Meegan did not call for the building to evacuate but had security perform a search under the supervision of a Chicago police officer, which was completed at 2:30 p.m.

The police report mentioned the phone number from which the threat was made to the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building. The number was later determined to belong to a pay phone in the Loop.

In an e-mail statement after the second incident, Carter reminded students, faculty and staff their well-being is always a primary focus.

“We hope this did not cause any undue concern as we continue to keep campus safety and community well-being our top priority.”

Additional reporting by Assistant Metro Editor Darryl Holliday