AlertUS not activated following campus threat to give ‘best chance’ of apprehending man responsible

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On Sept. 20, the Saskatoon Police Service worked with the University of Saskatchewan Protective Services department to arrest a man who made threats online concerning violence and relating to the U of S main campus.

The arrest followed a series of Facebook posts made by the 24-year-old man the previous evening, wherein he encouraged ISIS supporters on campus to riot and loot, as well as execute an unspecified number of Saudi Arabian leaders in the Bowl.

On the day of the arrest, university staff were notified of the potential threat to campus safety at 11:00 a.m. Students, however, were not made aware of the threats until Protective Services released a notification at 12:20 p.m., following the individual’s apprehension. Protective Services says that the individual posed no immediate danger to those on campus.

“The safety of our campus community and visitors to campus is our top priority in these situations. Following our joint investigation with the … SPS, it was determined that there was no immediate threat to the campus community,” Protective Services said in an email to the Sheaf.

The Bowl at the University of Saskatchewan.

Under certain circumstances, Protective Services has the capability to alert U of S students and staff of potential danger. Protective Services states that this mechanism was not deemed necessary in this case as the threats did not require immediate action.

“The decision to not issue an AlertUS message was made to give SPS and Protective Services the best chance to apprehend the individual without incident,” Protective Services said. “Many options were considered in the moment to ensure the safety of our campus community. Because of the effective process followed by SPS and our safety team, these options were not required. Our notification system is only activated in situations that require immediate action.”

Although no alert was sent about the incident, Protective Services says that there was an increased security presence on campus once they became aware of the online threats.

“From the time we were alerted, all officers on shift were working with SPS with the goal of locating the suspect,” Protective Services said in an email to the Sheaf. “The Bowl was being closely monitored. SPS and Protective Services had about 20 officers, plain-clothed and uniformed, patrolling campus.”

Protective Services revealed that there has been only one campus lockdown, when an individual carrying a bike seat was thought to be carrying a weapon.

The Canadian Muslim Chaplain Organization and the U of S Muslim Students’ Association released a joint statement in the evening on Sept. 21, expressing their concerns that the threats were indicative of a growing Islamophobic sentiment on campus.

“Safety is a growing concern for [the] Campus Muslim Community,” the statement said. “The Campus Muslim Community and its representatives are still in shock from yesterday’s arrest of a 24-year-old man after public online threats were made from the individual’s Facebook profile, many of which were directed towards Muslims,
Muslim-majority countries and their leaders.”

The CMCO and MSA statement also states that the individual allegedly approached a female student on campus before his arrest.

“The Muslim Chaplain also received written concern from a female Muslim student who was approached by the alleged owner of these Facebook posts and harassed about her hijab in a threatening and demanding manner yesterday, shortly before the arrest was made,” the statement said.

The individual has since been charged with uttering threats to cause death and breach of a court order. Saskatoon police have stated that the man is set to appear in court on Oct. 21 at 10:00 a.m.

Tanner Bayne / News Editor

Photo: Nadia Ristau