ASU Police Chief gives details of social media threat at Tempe USG meeting

After an online shooting threat that seemed to target ASU caused a uproar on social media Monday, ASU Chief of Police Michael Thompson stood in front of Tempe Undergraduate Student Government to explain the event and give advice on what to do in similar situations.

Thompson said ASU Police were aware of the threat, which seemed to target ASU and caused a panic across the 85,000 students on Tempe's campus Monday.

ASU PD had it under control and had an idea who the perpetrator of the threat was since it was posted Sunday afternoon, Thompson said. University of Arizona had also received a similar threat and was working with ASU PD at that time.

"We started looking into it," he said. "We had the FBI involved and what we call the ACTIC Center, the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center. We started to get them involved and we started to track down the IP address."

Thompson said ASU PD wanted to send out an advisory after some time, but University officials declined to do so because they didn't want to stir up fear within the community. He assured students during Tuesday's meeting that at no time did he believe anyone was in danger. 

"Your safety in the community is No. 1 to us and we'd never gamble with that," he said. 

If any similar situations happen in the future Thompson said he would send out an advisory alert and deal with any potential backlash.  

"In hindsight, we look at it and think in the future, if this ever comes around again, I'm sending out the advisory anyway," he said. "I can get in trouble with administration, I'll take the heat for that. I'd rather deal with that than everyone being worked up and spun up and scared."

Photos of the threat spread quickly across many social media sites Monday, most notably Twitter and Facebook. Students and faculty alike took precautions and stayed away from campus Monday afternoon. Some cancelled or skipped classes.

ASU's advisory text message system, the same one that has frequently informed students about bee infestations on all four campuses, was not dispatched once throughout the day.

On Tuesday, ASU Police released a statement that said the threat was traced to a 12-year-old boy from Canada and that there will be no charges made against him.

ASU PD found out "fairly quickly" that the threat came from outside the United States and started to become less and less credible, Thompson said. By the time the threatened event was planned to happen on Monday, Canadian police had already tracked the IP address.

"(His) parents let police up in Canada look at the computer (and) verify (that) this is where it came from," Thompson said. "About that time is when 12:30 rolled around and we knew he was at school."

Thompson said the boy confessed to posting the threat and said he did it because college-aged guys in Arizona who he was playing video games with online had been bullying him. Police also found out that the boy copied and pasted the threat from another source.

In order to lessen fears of an attack on campus, Thompson said extra officers were dispatched, something he admits definitely backfired in the heat of the moment. 

"I think people saw that and thought, 'Oh my gosh, if there's extra officers out that means there's a real threat,'" he said. 

Tempe USG President Issac Miller said students can always go to their USG leaders if they need accurate information about any event pertaining to the campus.

"Ideally, we always have accurate information," he said. "Now that may not always be the case, but ideally we do because ASU admin works with us in a very direct way. So chances are, if we haven't already posted about it on social media, we're about to, or I have the information and can touch base with really anyone who wants to talk about it."

Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated the University administration's thought process. This story has been updated with the correct information.



Reach the reporter at Jlsuerth@asu.edu or follow @SuerthJessica on Twitter.

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