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Unknown person sends mass email threat to UTM students

Story by Shannon Taylor Senior Investigative Reporter

UTM students received an alarming email Wednesday morning, March 1 from a former student. An offensive email reply to an announcement sent out about a Google account policy change was sent out to UTM students. IT services responded with, “IT Services has notified UTM Public Safety and provided them with the individual’s information. This user’s access has been revoked, and Public Safety will be following up with an investigation. If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Public Safety office at (731) 881-7777.”

Shortly after that response, Public Safety sent this out, “This morning, a threatening email was received on UTM accounts. Public Safety is investigating whether this is credible. All leads are being followed.”

The Press went to campus and discovered that the person replied to a mass email with, “When I find you, I will kill you.”

The press spoke with some students and staff on campus and there were concerns about the situation considering the shooting that recently happened at Michigan State and the history of so many school shootings. Some professors stated that they had to cancel classes because so many students didn’t show up and that students were emailing them stating that they just didn’t feel safe. All of the staff I spoke with said that they did not blame them at all.

None of the students or staff I spoke with were aware of any protocols for active shooter situations, but Director of University Relations Bud Grimes said that all protocols for emergency situations can be found on UTM’s website:

Grimes said that there has been no press release yet because the situation is still under investigation. He said that they do not believe this is a credible threat, but that everyone has been notified and that Public Safety is working diligently in this investigation.

A second notification was sent out from public safety stating, “Investigation is ongoing with the email threat. We do not consider this credible at this time. No additional threats have been received. Updates will continue. “

An update was posted via Facebook by UT Martin Parents and Families around 5 p.m. Wednesday evening and it stated, “Dear University Community, the investigation continues into today’s threatening email message received by students and others who have G-Mail accounts. This is not considered a credible threat, and leads are being followed. No other threats have occurred.  The investigation is being conducted by the UT Martin Department of Public Safety and investigators from the Martin Police Department and District Attorney General’s office. Updates will be provided as information becomes available. For concerns or questions, please call Public Safety at 731-881-7777.”

Professor at UTM, Renee LaFleur said that the email was sent out at 8:11 a.m. but the text from public safety wasn’t sent out until 9:51 a.m. “For more than an hour and a half, faculty, staff, and students had no information about how credible this threat was and the text from public safety telling us that they did not believe it was credible didn’t arrive until 4:56 p.m. That’s a whole school day without the campus knowing the true status of the threat. UTM needs to do better.” LaFleur said she had called public safety that morning and was told that they didn’t believe there was a threat to students. When she asked why they aren’t telling people that, she was told it was because the investigation was ongoing. LaFleur stated, “There was no guidance on how we were to respond from anyone.”

Interim Chief Jerry Garcia never responded back to the Press with a comment after numerous attempts were made to reach out to him.

Grimes got in touch with the Press March 10 to say, “The message was sent from a cell phone number, not the account of the former student. The former student had set up a forward from their email account to their old cell phone number. When the person changed cell phone numbers, they failed to remove the forward off their email account.”

Grimes said that the investigation into the matter is still ongoing, and that there is nothing additional to report at this time.