Police: Bomb threat at UL-Lafayette campus was a hoax

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 16, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 17 at 8:24 AM

Megan Wyatt mbwyatt@theadvertiser.com

According to police, the bomb threat at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus was a hoax.  No explosives were found.

The University has opened on-campus residences, and classes remain canceled for tonight.  The University is fully open Thursday. Other services open tonight: Guillory Dining Hall 5:30-7:30 p.m., Dupre Library 5-8 p.m., and Bourgeois Hall 4 -8 p.m., with a night shuttle running to and from main campus.

No additional suspicious packages found other than one in park. 

Earlier, a bomb threat called in to a local TV station and the subsequent discovery of two possible objects described as "suspicious devices" led to a sweep of the campus today, from Girard Park to the LITE Center.

The campus was largely evacuated after the threat was called in to KATC at 5:31 a.m., About 5,500 students are attending UL classes this summer. The university's emergency alert system was triggered at 7 a.m.

By noon, the evacuation area had been expanded to include the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce offices and Caldwell Banker on St. Mary.

Classes regularly scheduled for today and tonight have been canceled.

One suspicious device was found in a garbage can at Girard Park. State police said it was in the process of being rendered safe by about 10 a.m. The other device was found near the campus on Harding Street and forced the evacuation radius to be widened, although no private homes have been affected.

There was no immediate word from police on the nature of the devices. Louisiana State Police troopers would neither confirm nor deny rumors appearing on social media that talked about multiple devices.

The entire UL campus is undergoing a sweep using bomb-detecting dogs, Registrar Chip Jackson said.

The university's dog, Pepper, and those from other local law enforcement are being used to sweep all buildings on campus including the Cajundome and the University Research Park.

The bomb threat disrupted freshman orientation, which drew 400 students to campus. About a third of the students participating in orientation stayed in dorms. They were bused to River Oaks around 7 a.m.

River Oaks is the catering and event center on Kaliste Saloom Road, Jackson said. Fortunately, the residence halls were not as full as they would be in the fall or spring, he said.

Everyone else was asked to check the website regularly for updates. Today was only advising and scheduling, so most of it can be done remotely.

Nicholas Zerangue, an incoming freshman from Slidell, was headed to breakfast when he saw two police cars outside.

"They didn't tell us much, just that it was a bomb threat," he said. "Everyone was fine, calm, maybe a little annoyed. No one takes bomb threats seriously."

KATC General Manger Andrew Shenkan told The Daily Advertiser that the bomb threat call came in at 5:31 a.m. from an unidentified male who "sounded incoherent and was spewing expletives."

Shenkan said the call was taken by a morning show producer who immediately called police.

"He called the main newsroom line and told our producer he had placed multiple devices around the park and UL," Shenkan said. "He was using expletives and made other defamatory statements. So our producer immediately reached out to law enforcement."

Shenkan said the call was not the typical kind of bomb threat call that could have been taken as a prank, and the station was taking the incident very seriously.

"We are extremely concerned about the safety of our community and the students at UL and the residents near the park," Shenkan added.

According to Shenkan, Lafayette law enforcement officers are also in the process of retrieving data from KATC's phone records in hopes of finding the suspect or information that could lead police to him.

Shenkan said the caller also sounded incoherent, possibly drunk, when he called the morning show producer.

He said KATC news crews are currently on the scene with other reporters. He said KATC has not been told what the devices are at this point.

Updates from The Advertiser reporters at the scene:

11:40 a.m.: Employees of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and Caldwell Banker have been evacuated due to the bomb threat situation on UL's campus. No private residences near Girard Park or UL's campus have been evacuated.

400 students in summer orientation and 5,500 summer school students have been affected by today's bomb threat. According to UL, students concerned with registering, paying fees and other campus activities can rest assured they can do so at a later date.

The emergency notification system was activated at 7:03 a.m. UL is investigating why some students and faculty didn't get alerts.

University operations are expected to resume tomorrow morning.

11:09 a.m.: KATC General Manger Andrew Shenkan told The Daily Advertiser that the bomb threat call came in at 5:31 a.m. from an unidentified male who "sounded incoherent and was spewing expletives."

Shenkan said the call was taken by a morning show producer who immediately called police.

"He called the main newsroom line and told our producer he had placed multiple devices around the park and UL," Shenkan said. "He was using expletives and made other defamatory statements. So our producer immediately reached out to law enforcement."

Shenkan said the call was not the typical kind of bomb threat call that could have been taken as a prank, and the station was taking the incident very seriously.

"We are extremely concerned about the safety of our community and the students at UL and the residents near the park," Shenkan added.

According to Shenkan, Lafayette law enforcement officers are also in the process of retrieving data from KATC's phone records in hopes of finding the suspect or information that could lead police to him.

Shenkan said the caller also sounded incoherent, possibly drunk, when he called the morning show producer.

He said KATC news crews are currently on the scene with other news media. He said KATC has not been told what the devices are at this point.

10:47 a.m.: The Advertiser has heard speculation on social media that several devices have been found on campus. We asked Louisiana State Police directly, and they would neither confirm nor deny those claims.

10:40 a.m.: About a third of orientation was staying in dorms. They were bused to River Oaks around 7 a.m. Everyone else was asked to check the website regularly for updates. Today was only advising and scheduling, so most of it can be done remotely.

Nicholas Zerangue, an incoming freshman from Slidell, was headed to breakfast when he saw two police cars outside.

"They didn't tell us much, just that it was a bomb threat," he said. "Everyone was fine, calm, maybe a little annoyed. No one takes bomb threats seriously."

10:20 a.m.: The entire UL campus is undergoing a sweep using bomb-detecting dogs, Registrar Chip Jackson said.

The university's bomb-sniffing dog, Pepper, and those from other local law enforcement are being used to sweep all buildings on campus including the south campus that includes the Cajundome and LITE Center, he said.

UL students residing on campus this summer were relocated to River Oaks catering and event center on Kaliste Saloom Road, Jackson said. Fortunately, the residence halls were not as full as they would be in the fall or spring, he said.

The university's emergency alert system and plan seems to be working well, Jackson said.

10:11 a.m.: The second suspicious device located on UL's campus has expanded the evacuation perimeter to Harding Street near campus, according to State Police. The first suspicious device was found in a garbage can in Girard Park and is close to being rendered safe.

Lafayette Police are asking motorists to avoid the area around UL campus. This area includes major roadways such as Johnston Street, St. Mary Boulevard, South College Road, W. Pinhook Road, University Avenue, as well as roadways associated with the Oil Center.

9:37 a.m.: Authorities are checking into a possible second device near St. Mary and Taft, according to Brooks David of the Louisiana State Police. The suspicious device in Girard Park will soon be "rendered safe." There may or may not be a noise related to its destruction.

At 9:25 a.m., a media staging area near St. Mary and Girard Park Circle was being searched by State Police dogs. The area was deemed unsafe, and the media were being moved further away from UL's campus.

Officers were seen in the vicinity of St. Mary's Boulevard and Taft Street and may have been evacuating residents.

State Police updated the media around 9 a.m. saying that the initial threat was called into KATC-TV3, who informed authorities. The call included both the bomb threat at Girard Park and UL, according to Louisiana State Police Spokesman Brooks David.

Just before 9 a.m., Louisiana State Police reported Emergency Service technicians are responding to Girard Park and UL campus to assist.

Sgt. Kyle Suarez, Lafayette Police Department, said a joint statement will be issued soon by local law enforcement officers.

Original story:

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette received a bomb threat early this morning.

The campus was evacuated, but residents are asked to stay in their dorms.

Lafayette police are on the scene at Girard Park investigating a suspicious device. The investigation began at 5:37 a.m. today, after a call was received concerning a bomb threat.

UL's emergency notification system was activated just after 7 a.m., according to Chris Welty, spokesman for the university.

All classes and events are canceled until further notice. Orientation has been postponed but may be held later today. Freshmen were reportedly notified before they showed up.

Roads around campus and Girard Park are blocked off. Drivers are advised to avoid the area.

The area around the park has been closed until further notice.

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