Threats close 2 local colleges, nearby schools

April 14, 2008 11:55:01 PM PDT
The latest threat was found Monday on the wall of a men's bathroom at Malcolm X College. Last Thursday, graffiti was found scrawled in a bathroom at Saint Xavier University, threatening something terrible would happen today.

Administrators at Malcolm X would not be specific about the exact wording of the threat that they received, but they now say they don't believe there is any danger to the campus, so they are set to resume classes at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Chicago police officers converged on Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, late Monday morning, a few hours after a student found a threatening message on a wall inside a men's rest room. Classes were suspended and the school evacuated so that bomb-sniffing dogs could be sent to search the building.

"We have had this kind of thing happen with us before in terms of bomb scares and calls coming in, and so we have experienced working with the Chicago Police Department, and the advice is all ways to think it out as best can you," said Ghingo Brooks, interim president.

The decision to shut down temporarily was finally made in light of a similar situation at St. Xavier University's South Side campus. They are closed until further notice because of a very specific threat also written on a bathroom wall, this one inside a campus dormitory. The message was the second in a week and clearly stated that people would die Monday, April 14.

"A year ago it would have been very unlikely that any campus in the country could have closed down through to threatening graffiti, but in the shadow of Virginia Tech and more recently here in Illinois, Northern Illinois, you simply have to take threats more and more seriously," said Joe Moore, St. Xavier spokesperson.

Mother McAuley High School, Brother Rice High School, Queen of Martyrs School and Evergreen Park Southwest Elementary were also closed Monday because of their proximity to St. Xavier University.

The university shut all of its sites in Chicago and Orland Park while investigators continue to look for the person responsible for the threatening graffiti.

Officials hope the Catholic liberal arts college will open as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, officials at the two high schools and two elementary schools say they expect to resume classes on Tuesday.

While it's unknown whether the messages at either school are credible, students arriving at a closed Malcolm X Monday afternoon reacted to the threats.

"I think it's like a game for some people. They have to realize some people are out here actually trying to go to school. You're hurting those people when you do stuff like that," said Eriberto Vazquez, Malcolm X College student.

"It's alarming. You don't know what's going on, if it was false or if it was a prank or if it's true," said Yolanda Stewart, Malcolm X College student.

SXU has set many students up in hotels or paid the airfare of others so that they can go back home until the decision is made to reopen. Both St. Xavier and Malcolm X have set up hotlines for students to get additional information.

Malcolm X was asking those who have classes late Monday afternoon to call before they come over. There were already plenty of students congregating outside of the building around 4 p.m., waiting for it to reopen..

A group of ministers made a call for more gun control laws after the threat of violence at SXU.

Twenty-five ministers gathered at Saint Xavier University, 3700 W. 103rd St., Monday. The ministers were calling for tougher penalties for people who are caught selling guns illegally. The group wants the state's general assembly to take steps to stop what they call a pandemic of violence in the Chicago area.

At NIU's Naperville campus, under a cloud of gun violence, gun-control proponents gathered to talk about ways to stop all the violence. One of the speakers, Garrett Evans, survived the shooting almost one year ago at Virginia Tech.

"Door opens really, really fast, the first thing I see is a .22 automatic unloading before I ever saw the guy's face, 'pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,'" said Evans.

Most of the audience while sympathetic to the victims, oppose new gun control laws. The National Rifle Association urged members to turn out, and they have in large numbers.

"Legislation that is proposed in Springfield only infringes on the rights of law-abiding people. And we are not for those, we are going to oppose those," said Richard Pearson, Illinois NRA Executive Director.

"Instead of going after people who want to protect themselves and taking our rights away, you go after the people that are making the rap music and video games that are where these teenagers practice how to shoot each other," said Ronnie Rohrbak, NRA member.

Chicago area campuses weren't the only ones impacted by threats Monday. Administrators at Oakland University near Detroit say they found threatening messages on campus Saturday. The university was closed Monday. The Detroit Free Press reports the graffiti referred to possible campus attacks Monday. The dorms were still open but students were encouraged to go home if possible. Classes were scheduled to resume Tuesday.

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