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Bomb scare causes University Center evacuation

September 20, 2007

In what is being called a bomb prank by an intoxicated student, the UW-River Falls University Center was evacuated late on the first day of the first full week of classes.

The incident that led to the evacuation took place between 10:15 p.m. and 10:25 p.m. Sept. 10 outside the University Center.

“Students were upset enough by the comments by this individual where they felt the need to call this in,” River Falls Police Sgt. Jeff Linehan said.

The student who allegedly made the threat was UWRF student Jacob Graber, 20.

“The comment that was made wasn’t so direct as, ‘there’s a bomb and it’s going to go off in the University Center,” Linehan said. “It was much more discreet.”

The alleged statement made by Graber indicated that people were going to be injured or hurt, Linehan said. In the wake of many school shootings and other terrorist incidents University officials and local police erred on the side of caution in handling the threat.

“People need to realize, especially because of the timing of it on the anniversary of 9/11, that things like this will not be taken lightly,” he said.

The first call the students who heard the alleged threat made was to UW-River Falls Public Safety. That call came in at approximately 10:26 p.m.

The call was then sent out to the Pierce County dispatcher who then notified the River Falls Police Department (RFPD). As soon as the RFPD arrived on the scene the public safety officers involved took on an assistance role.

The decision to evacuate the University Center was a precautionary measure, UWRF Director of Public Safety Dick Trende said.

The building was staffed and there were a few students inside who were taken outside.

Graber was taken into custody shortly after the threat was made.

Chancellor Don Betz was notified and actually came to campus to make sure everything was okay.

“I went to the UC late the evening of the incident after Blake’s call because the information available at the time was unclear and I wanted to be sure that there were no continuing issues,” Betz said in an email interview. “When I arrived at the UC after 11:30 p.m. all was quiet.”

There was also a bomb threat at UWRF Sept. 28, 2006, which led to the evacuation of North Hall at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 29. That incident led to UWRF administration to review policies and practices in emergency situations. 

“For something to happen at that late of an hour I’m extremely pleased as to how it was handled,” Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor, said. “It was definitely and improvement to the way it was handled in North Hall (last year).”

The latest incident emphasized the new emergency situation plans that UWRF administration will be working on this year, Fry, who will chair the campus emergency response team, said. UWRF was the first Wisconsin University to receive a disaster-planning grant, which will help in creating contingency plans in the event of an emergency.

Graber was reached by email, but declined to comment.