COLLEGE PARK – University of Maryland Police defended their decision not to issue a campus-wide alert prior to the weekend arrest of a student who had posted online that he was planning a “shooting rampage” on the College Park campus.
University Police Chief David Mitchell said they chose not to alert the campus community because it might have tipped off the suspect, Alexander Song.
“We felt we had the situation contained and the last thing we wanted to do was to alert the entire campus, including Mr. Song that we were looking for him,” Mitchell said.
Students were not informed of the threats through the campus wide alert system until more than 12 hours after police arrested Song, a 19-year-old sophomore and Gemstone Honors and engineering student.
Some students questioned the logic behind the delayed alert.
“It was already all over the news,” student Emma Atlas said.
While some considered the initial threat posted on Reddit.com a joke, a former university student who used to work with campus police took it seriously and reported it to the authorities Saturday night. Police said two other anonymous sources reported threats Song made on Omegle.com.
Song wrote, “Hopefully I kill enough people to make it to national news” and warned people to “stay away from the mall” on Monday, a central lawn on campus.
”Our detectives and OIT staff determined that the messages were sent from a campus location,” Mitchell said.
Police used the IP address to track down Song. Detectives arrested him, unarmed, Sunday morning after setting up surveillance to track his movements.
“He was very emotionally distraught, to the point of shaking and crying,” Mitchell said. “And clearly in need of some psychiatric assistance.”
Song was taken to a local hospital for an emergency evaluation.
Police did not find weapons at either his parent’s Howard County home or in his dorm. Mitchell said there was a credible threat based on Song’s internet activity.
Some students on campus were concerned because of disturbing similarities to past tragedies.
“I was scared, because I don’t take threats lightly, after what’s happened at other college campuses,” student Dorcas Olawuni said.
Song faces a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the orderly conduct of activities, administration or classes at the school. The charge is punishable by either a maximum fine of $2500 and as much as six months in jail.
Song has been suspended by the university and is no longer allowed on campus.