U.K. police arrest suspect in online threat to Wilfrid Laurier University
Published Saturday, October 17, 2015 11:30AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, October 17, 2015 3:35PM EDT
A 22-year-old man from the U.K. has been arrested in connection with an online threat that triggered a six-hour lockdown at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., on Friday.
The Metropolitan Police Service arrested the man in the north London suburb of Tottenham Hale on suspicion of malicious communication, according to a news statement released Saturday from the Waterloo Regional Police Service.
The RCMP, National Cyber Crime Unit, FBI, and Metropolitan police were all on alert Friday, after authorities spotted a threatening message on an online forum.
The language in the post was similar to a threat issued before the fatal shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon earlier this month.
Wilfrid Laurier was on fall reading week at the time of the threat, but some students and staff were on campus during the six-hour lockdown. The security measures were lifted by 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Waterloo police say they are now sharing information with other law enforcement agencies to learn more about the arrest and potential charges. Since the man was arrested in the U.K., any possible charges would be laid overseas.
“What we will do is work in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police for information-sharing. But they will determine whether or not … it actually fills something whereby they will go forward with charges,” Waterloo Regional Police Sergeant Amy Moore told CTV Kitchener.
Some have speculated that the post may have been a hoax, but Moore says an online prank could still lead to police response.
“When a person posts an online threat, to themselves it may very well be a prank or hoax. However if the recipient or recipients of that believe it to be something that is possible and it causes a level of fear or anxiety, those things, when brought to police attention, are taken very seriously,” Moore said.
University officials say they were pleased by the “swift” and “effective” response from each agency involved.
“It was definitely good news. We’re very grateful that no one was hurt and that the incident wasn’t worse than it was,” Kevin Crowley, director of communications and public affairs for Wilfrid Laurier University, told CTV Kitchener.
The campus was relatively quiet Friday, and those still in town over reading week say that word of the lockdown quickly spread.
Dakota Lamarre, a student who lives a few blocks from the university, cancelled plans to study on campus after he received several calls from family and friends alerting him to the situation.
“I was definitely concerned,” Lamarre said. “It’s not something to take lightly, especially with all of the things that have been going on in the States … I had no idea that something like this would ever happen at Laurier.”
Asked whether recent school shootings in the U.S. influenced the lockdown response, the university’s spokesman asserted the importance of exercising precaution.
“The reality is that we are going to see incidents like this. You have to make tough decisions,” Crowley said. “We don’t do that lightly. It’s disruptive, it’s very disturbing, but we felt it was the safe and prudent thing to do.”
With files from CTV Toronto