FBI, ATF warn of threat of violence against 'university near Philadelphia'

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Monday, October 5, 2015
FBI, ATF warn of threat of violence against university
David Henry from our sister station in Philadelphia has the story

PHILADLEPHIA -- The FBI and ATF are warning about a non-specific threat of violence against "a university near Philadelphia" on Monday.

The FBI released the following statement over the weekend:

Out of an abundance of caution, the FBI Philadelphia Field Office notified local colleges and universities of a social media posting which threatened violence at a Philadelphia-area college or university for Monday, October 5. No specific college or university was identified in the posting. We encourage students, faculty, and employees at area colleges and universities to follow the guidance of their campus security officials. The FBI will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate threats of violence, and, as always, we ask the public to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.

The threat was posted on 4chan, a message board where everyone is anonymous, last Friday, the day after the shooting in Oregon. It praises the gunman as a fellow member of the "Beta Rebellion."

"On October fifth, at 1pm Central time, a fellow robot will take up arms at a university near Philadelphia," the post reads.

Schools in Philadelphia and surrounding communities - including Temple and Drexel universities and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Villanova and St. Joseph's University, and Camden County and Delaware Tech community colleges - emphasized that the threat is non-specific, but urged students to be on alert.

On Monday those schools and other colleges beefed up security on campus out of an abundance of caution.

Jessica Smith in a senior at Temple. She says, "There were a lot more cop cars on campus and I think campus police and security were deciding on a game plan for today."

This in the hopes students and staff would deliver on a request to them: exercise more vigilance.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Temple University alerted their community to check their emails for an important public safety message from Temple police.

That email was tweeted by Temple's student news program Temple Update.

In the email, Temple police say, "Temple University, along with other colleges and universities in our region, has learned from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) that a threat of violence has been made online against "a university near Philadelphia." This posting states an action could take place at 1 p.m. central (2 p.m. eastern) Monday, Oct. 5, 2015."

Temple police say law enforcement is not aware of any specific threat at this time and they will have increased visibility on campus Monday.

Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania's independent student news organization The Daily Pennsylvanian tweeted about the warning, as well.

Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania also released statements Sunday regarding a safety advisory:

The FBI has notified all Philadelphia area colleges and universities about a recent social media posting threating violence at a Philadelphia area college or university on Monday, October 5. Since the shooting last week at a community college in Oregon, the FBI has seen similar social media postings throughout the country. - Drexel University

We have been advised by ATF and the FBI that they have "no knowledge of any specific threat". However, in an abundance of caution we are working closely with Federal and local Law Enforcement Agencies to monitor this unspecified threat. The Division of Public Safety has increased our police, security officer and CCTV patrols. - Univ. of Penn

In response to the threat, students in the area were expressing concern and said they were wondering what to do.

"Just because all of the recent things have been going on, it's just scary to think it's possibly going to happen on our campus," said Mackenzie Leedy of Drexel University. "So I'm scared to actually leave my dorm tomorrow."

"It's just kind of scary because Drexel isn't that safe of an area the way it is, just given its history, and the fact that we don't know which school and it's a very specific time," said Amanda Stella, a junior at Drexel.

Most said they will be on the lookout for anything suspicious.

Action News was told by law enforcement officials that they get reports of possible threats all the time. But because of the timing of the threat was so close to Oregon and the anonymous poster used the same message board, the FBI and the ATF felt it was important to communicate it to local schools.

An official from Temple University tells Action News that the university has been and will continue to communicate with both law enforcement and other colleges about how, if at all, the threat develops over the next few hours.