On April 17, Seattle University experienced a rare threat to the community’s safety.
Early that morning, threatening notes were found in a women’s bathroom in both the Engineering building and Pigott building. Soon public safety made the decision to begin evacuating the buildings and search for suspicious objects.
“I came into work and as soon as I sat down some guy walked in and told me there was a bomb threat and we needed to evacuate,” said senior management major Nathan Lara. “I was pretty shocked and at first was thinking I didn’t believe it.”
Notifications were sent out via email to all students, faculty and staff explaining the bomb threat and the need to evacuate all of the buildings.
Once all of the classrooms were evacuated, the facilities department and housing representatives helped search other buildings to determine if the threat was extended to other areas on campus. Public safety and the Seattle Police Department searched the buildings as well to see if they could find any suspicious objects.
However, during this evacuation there were a few people who did not see the email and were confused as to what exactly was happening.
“We were trying to get to one of our teachers who was outside of Pigott trying to hold class but a guy told us that we should go away because there is a bomb threat,” said junior biology major Katie Wood. “I thought they were being kind of rude and didn’t really explain entirely what was going on.”
The buildings were evacuated for several hours during the search, but several students apparently did not believe the threat was credible. According to Lara, there were several students who did not pay much attention to the warnings and walked around the campus as if nothing was happening. Some even referred to it as “the most non-intimidating bomb threat they ever experienced”.
Once the searches were over, Public safety consulted with the school administration and determined that the buildings could be reopened to students and faculty to carry on about the day as usual. As with most bomb threats, no suspicious objects were found.
“Although having an evacuation can be inconvenient, that is what most of these bomb threats are going for—a disruption of practices rather than an actual bomb,” said Executive Director of Public Safety and Transportation Tim Marron. “Our focus is the protection of life on campus and we were obviously looking to see if any additional issues developed.”
The very next day, more threatening notes were discovered in two different women’s bathrooms in James Tower where the Seattle U nursing lab is located. Public safety immediately responded and transported students back to campus in vans out of precaution that they may have been targets of the threat. After looking through security footage, a woman was identified entering both of those bathrooms within a short period of time. It was determined by faculty members that the suspect of the threats was 26-year-old nursing student Mai Thi Nguyen. Her alleged motivation for writing the notes was to get out of taking several nursing exams.
Once Ngyuen had been identified, the Seattle Police Department took over the investigation and made an arrest on Monday morning. They were able to locate Ngyuen thanks to some of the security cameras on campus.
“You know one thing that is brought up sometime is the student concern over student privacy and security cameras,” Marron said. “At Seattle University, trying to find a balance between security and privacy is really important. The cameras are important because they allow us to go back in retrospect during an investigation. We do not have any cameras in areas where there is an expectation of privacy.”
It is not often that Seattle University experiences threats to community safety as serious as a bomb threat.
According to Marron, although the procedure for this event went well, it is important that students are informed and are notified if dangers like this arise in the future.
“One thing for sure is that they really took initiative to close off that wide area in a short amount of time,” Lara said. “They were determined to keep us safe.”