News

Group owns up to Pitt bomb threats

For the past three months, Pittsburgh has been making national headlines for the continuous bomb threats targeting the University of Pittsburgh, but it seems that the threats have finally come to a close.

On April 21, the group behind these threats outed itself, sending an email to The Pitt News, the university’s campus newspaper, and to Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. In the email, the group promised to stop the threats if the university would withdraw the $50,000 reward for information leading to the members’ arrest. The same day, the offer for the reward was taken down from the university’s website and no bomb threats have been received since.

The anonymous group took responsibility for all the threats sent via email since March 30, but not any of the handwritten ones, including the first ones found in a bathroom stall of the Chevron Science Center on Feb. 13. In March, the threats sped up, coming at a rate of two to four per day, with the total tally coming to more than 155.

“It’s nice to know that it’s ended. My friends at UPitt were getting frustrated and annoyed,” said fourth-year architecture major Joe Dziekan.

Neal Jaehne, a graduate student in the Pitt School of Pharmacy, said, “I wasn’t scared. It was ridiculous. They were so constant and regular. How do you take something like that seriously when it’s so regular? I thought it was a prank.”

In the search to find the person or people of interest, multiple individuals were brought in for questioning over the past months. The FBI, Secret Service, Department of Justice, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force all collaborated with local police in the search. On April 11, University of Pittsburgh police arrested Mark Lee Krangle, a University of Pittsburgh alumnus, as well as a transgender couple living in Johnston, Pa., claiming a break in the case. The group claiming to be behind the threats, however, denies that anyone arrested thus far was involved in the threats.

The University of Pittsburgh was not the only place targeted. The threats have also been made at other Pittsburgh educational institutions, including California University, Point Park University, Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind, and the Community College of Allegheny County.

As a result of the constant threats, University of Pittsburgh administrators took many measures to secure the safety of its students and faculty, vowing to keep the campus open and operating. To enter buildings, individuals were required to show Pitt IDs and undergo bag checks, and non-residents were no longer permitted in dorms.

When students were removed from their dormitories in the middle of the night, the university provided cots, blankets, and free food at the student union center and basketball gym. The school united; the editor-in-chief of The Pitt News, Michael Macagnone, said the threats led to a surge in school spirit. “From what I have seen, this has brought the Pitt community together,” Macagnone told The New York Times. “The connections have always been there, with Facebook and social media. But this has been a shared experience by everyone on campus.”

In addition, the university took advantage of social media tools like Twitter to keep students informed about the threats and building openings. University-run Google spreadsheets and Facebook pages informed students of housing options off campus. Even so, some students left their dorms and classrooms and were given the option of continuing their studies at home for the rest of the semester. Attendance policies were disregarded for these students.