Colleges and universities throughout Mississippi received on-campus bomb threats Thursday as a wave of similar threats spread across the country.
Mississippi State University sent out an alert regarding a bomb threat reported on campus near Barnes and Noble and Cullis Wade Depot at 12:32 p.m.
Less than an hour later, the university announced an all-clear.
“While incidents of this nature are the subject of frequent MSU Crisis Action Team training and drills, I am extremely grateful for the prompt and professional actions of MSU’s first responders today,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said in a news release. “They work hard every day to keep our students, faculty, staff and visitors safe, and I am proud of them.”
A university spokesperson told the Clarion Ledger other universities, such as Itawamba Community College and William Carey University, received similar threats which were false.
“But we are evacuating and searching specific buildings mentioned out of an abundance of caution,” the spokesperson added. “Canines are being used with MSUPD.”
Caron Blanton, director of communications for Mississippi Public Universities confirmed the reports.
“The campuses that received bomb threats today include the Natchez Campus of Alcorn State University; the Barnes & Noble and Cullis Wade Depot at Mississippi State University, the Tupelo and DeSoto campuses of the University of Mississippi, which are co-located with community colleges. and The University of Southern Mississippi,” Blanton said in a press release. “All bomb threats received by the universities are taken seriously, with the appropriate precautions taken and law enforcement utilized to investigate and assist as needed.”
Although the threat was false, Blanton said an investigation is ongoing to identify and prosecute the source of the call.
University of Southern Mississippi officials reported receiving a bomb threat and notified all faculty, staff and students.
University Police Department investigated the report and “have determined the threat is not credible and that all campuses and locations are clear to continue regular operations. The threat did not reference a specific location.”
“Similar calls were made to numerous Mississippi universities and colleges today, and Alabama universities and colleges yesterday,” USM reported. “Although the threat was false, an investigation is ongoing to identify and prosecute the source of the call.”
The Mississippi threats came a day after a spate of similar bomb threats at colleges and universities in Tennessee and Alabama on Wednesday, including the University of Tennessee Health Sciences in Memphis.
Suzanne Monk, a spokeswoman for William Carey University in Hattiesburg said she could neither confirm nor deny whether a threat had been made, but an official with Biloxi police confirmed the university’s Tradition campus had been searched earlier in the day.
“There have been a lot of these bomb threats nationwide,” said Capt. Milton Houseman, commander of Biloxi Police Department’s Bomb Squad. “There is some spoof calling going out. There were at least nine in the state of Mississippi that I am aware of.”
Houseman said the bomb squad responded early Thursday morning to a threat at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Tradition campus and as a courtesy checked William Carey University’s Tradition campus, which is next door to MGCCC.
The cases have been turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation since the threats have been reported nationwide. FBI officials did not respond to calls seeking comment by the Clarion Ledger’s deadline.
The Southaven Police Department tweeted at 1:48 p.m. that there was an increased police presence at Northwest Community College in Senatobia.
According to Alcorn State University, a bomb threat was reported on its Natchez campus, but after a search by the ASU police, the campus has been cleared.
There was a threat to the Attalla campus of Holmes Community College around 2:30 p.m. Officials have locked down the campus and are currently searching for any devices.
Earlier this year four historically Black colleges and universities in Mississippi were among at least 10 institutions that received bomb threats in late January.
Those institutions were part of a larger group of 57 HBCUs and houses of worship that were targeted by bomb threats between Jan. 4 and Feb. 16, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI later announced it was investigating six juveniles in connection to the threats. However, it is unclear if any arrests were ever made.
Stefan Krajisnik is the Mississippi State beat writer for the Clarion Ledger. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @skrajisnik3.
Clarion Ledger reporters Lici Beveridge, Scott Hawkins and Ross Reily added to this report.