A photo of the Drillfield's paths and the buildings on the east side of campus.

Suspicious email sent to select Virginia Tech email addresses

In Happenings, Virginia Tech News by

The email was sent out on Monday afternoon. Police are investigating.
By Erica Corder, Editor-in-chief Contact the Editor

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Donald Trump emphatically speaks in front of the crowd.

A photo of the Virginia Tech campus. Photo by Scott Beaubien.

Updates from Wednesday, August 31, 2016:

Update, 5:01 p.m.: Chief Brian Cadwell of Michigan Technological University’s Public Safety and Police Services confirmed Wednesday that the threatening email was sent from outside the country.

At this time, no further specifics are being released as to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing investigation, Cadwell said.

***

Update, 12:32 p.m.: Joelle Ziemian, director of media, marketing and communications at Sweet Briar College, confirmed Wednesday that one faculty or staff member at the college received a threatening email.

Ziemian could not confirm at the time that the faculty or staff member was affiliated with Virginia Tech in any way.

According to Mark Owczarski on Monday via email, four other schools received the same threatening email that dozens at Virginia Tech received.

Those four schools are now known to be Sweet Briar College, Michigan Technological University, William & Mary, and North Carolina State University.

The United States Department of Agriculture also reported on Monday that several employees received an anonymous message at multiple offices throughout the United States, according to an email release.

Matthew Herrick, director of the Office of Communications at the USDA, could not confirm whether the anonymous message, sent via email, was the same email sent to dozens at Virginia Tech.

As a precaution, the department closed its facilities in Fort Collins, Colo. Hamden, Conn., Beltsville, Md., Raleigh, N.C., and Kearneysville and Leetown, W. Va.

Several facilities reopened Wednesday with enhanced security, while the Hamden, Conn., Forest Service Office, Natural Resources Conservation Service Office, and Leetown, W. Va. facilities remain closed.

***

Update, 11:50 a.m.: On Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 10:41 a.m., the Virginia Tech Police Department published a release on the university website and via email stating that “it does not appear that the location of origin of the threatening emails is within the region.”

The announcement stated that the investigation is ongoing and that reports of similar incidents are being sent to Virginia Tech Police Department from throughout the United States.

“The Virginia Tech Police Department, along with state and federal authorities, remain vigilant in their pursuit of determining the individual or individuals responsible,” the release said.

The university remains open.


Updates from Tuesday, August 30, 2016:

Update, 1:34 p.m.: An announcement emailed to the North Carolina State University community confirmed that two faculty members at the university received the same threatening email that was sent to dozens of Virginia Tech email addresses on Monday.

Mick Kulikowski, assistant director for North Carolina State University News, could not confirm if the two individuals were affiliated with Virginia Tech.

The email sent out to the community also noted that the United States Department of Agriculture received threats, but it was not clear if the threats were in the form of the same email that was sent out at Virginia Tech.

A representative for the United States Department of Agriculture could not immediately be reached for comment.

***

Update, 10:04 a.m.: An announcement posted Monday on the William & Mary news website and Suzanne Seurattan, director of News & Media at William & Mary, confirmed that one individual at the Williamsburg, Va.-based college received a threatening email related to those sent to dozens of Virginia Tech emails on Monday afternoon.

“We learned this afternoon that several members of the Virginia Tech community received an email threatening campus safety,” the announcement states. “This email was also sent to someone within our community who has an affiliation with Virginia Tech, through his Virginia Tech e-mail address.”

Seurattan could not disclose whether the individual at William & Mary was faculty, staff, or a student.

William & Mary Police has been in contact with the Virginia Tech Police Department, Seurattan said.


Updates from Monday, August 29, 2016:

Update, 9:34 p.m.: According to Chief Brian Cadwell of Michigan Technological University’s Public Safety and Police Services, a faculty member at the Houghton, Mich.-based university received the same email that was sent to dozens of Virginia Tech email addresses on Monday afternoon.

The faculty member was “possibly” affiliated with Virginia Tech in the past, Cadwell said.

Like Virginia Tech Police, Michigan Technological University Public Safety and Police Services is also working with federal and state partners, including the FBI and local authorities. The police have also “had correspondence” with Google, Cadwell said.

“We’ve increased our patrols on campus,” Cadwell said. “We take all threats seriously and we believe that based upon the widely dispersed emails in this case that we will come to a solution to this.”

***

Update, 5:09 p.m.: Virginia Tech Police has sent out a campus-wide email confirming that the department is continuing to investigate the threatening email:

“Monday, Aug 29 (5 p.m.)

The following update to the Virginia Tech community is from Virginia Tech Police Chief Kevin Foust:

Virginia Tech Police has an ongoing active investigation underway and appreciates the assistance and cooperation from the campus community.

At this point we have learned other schools have also received cyber-threats today. The safety of campus is a primary concern, and with this in mind, we remain vigilant in our investigation. Campus is open and operating under normal conditions; classes are in session.

Virginia Tech Police are working with our state and federal partners. We continue to ask anyone with any information about this cyber-threat to contact us at threatassessment@vt.edu or call 540-382-4343.”

***

Update, 4:28 p.m.: University spokesperson Mark Owczarski confirmed via email that “police have provided one update—people at four other universities have received the same email.”

Owczarski did not know which four universities received the email.

Virginia Tech Police could not be reached for comment.

Addressing rumors that President Timothy Sands was evacuated from campus, Owczarski said they simply aren’t true.

“I just saw him 1 minute ago. Virginia Tech is fully open for business,” he wrote.

***

Update, 3:57 p.m.: According to Virginia Tech’s official Twitter account, the university has not cancelled any classes. Class cancellations are at the discretion of individual professors.

***

Update, 3:44 p.m.: Despite reports to the contrary, University Relations spokesperson Mark Owczarski confirmed via email that the university has not placed any buildings on lockdown.

***

Original story below:

On Monday afternoon, a suspicious email was sent out to select Virginia Tech email addresses.

The email, sent from various aliases around 1:30 p.m., reads: “I am here to inform that in the next couple of days I will break into the campus and will kill as many people as I can untill the police arrives.”

email

The known aliases of the sender are Jack Bauer, John Grind, Robert Birdman, and Rex King. Each name is tied to a different email address via Gmail.

At 2:31 p.m., approximately an hour after the threatening email was sent out, Virginia Tech Police sent out a campus-wide announcement:

“At this time, Virginia Tech Police can confirm that an email was sent to dozens of emails addresses within our campus community that included a threat to campus safety.

Virginia Tech Police take all such incidents seriously and are actively investigating.

We are seeking information to assist in this investigation and ask any information about this email be directed threatassessment@vt.edu or call 540-382-4343.”

Some professors cancelled classes in response to the email.

Kathleen Moriarty, a junior in marketing management, arrived to her Marketing 3104 class in Squires Student Center and was told by professor Donna Wertalik that class was dismissed.

“She started off class by saying that the faculty received an email this morning about a threat, no specifics or anything, and in talking with the marketing department they decided to cancel class. She didn’t feel that we were safe being such a large class, and that her number one responsibility was to protect us,” she said in a text message.

The 2:30 and 4:00 sections of English 3844 were also canceled. In an email sent to Pylon staffer and student of English 3844 Caleb Spencer, professor Traci Gardner told students, “Please stay or go home and be safe.”

This is an ongoing story. We will continue to update this story as it develops.

Sami Drew contributed to this report.

 

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