BOZEMAN – A man is in custody after a scary day on campus at Montana State University (MSU).
MSU police say a threat from an employee who was scheduled to be fired Thursday threatened to kill not only himself — but also others. Importantly, police say everyone is now safe, and no one is in any further danger.
Frank Parrish, MSU police chief, says the incident started with a social media post from a current employee on campus. Those walking to and from buildings on campus were told to immediately get out of the open or get off campus as the university was put into shelter-in-place mode.
In the end, about two hours after it started, police found the man in Norm Asbjornson Hall.
“MSU police received a report of a threat made by an MSU employee,” Parrish said. After that, officers moved quickly, locking all buildings and immediately starting to look for the man behind the threat.
“The suspect stated to a family member that he was ready to end it all and has all of his guns loaded, and he was ready to take out anyone with him,” Parrish said. Agencies from across the area rallied, working through the county 911 center and the emergency alert system.
The suspect was nowhere to be found although he had been at the campus police station just minutes beforehand.
“In this particular case, we didn’t know where the suspect was,” Parrish said. “We knew he was on campus because he came by about 20 minutes prior to that and bought a parking pass. He was also scheduled for a 2 o’clock meeting, a dismissal hearing. He was an employee going through the disciplinary process.”
According to Parrish, the man was possibly armed with several guns.
“We were told that the suspect had two shotguns and a rifle we have not recovered at this time, but that’s all the information that we have on that,” Parrish said. “He was not armed at the time that he was taken into custody.”
Police worked quickly, using the county emergency alert system to text alerts out to students and staff and putting the university into shelter-in-place mode, something both campus officials and all police agencies involved say probably changed how this played out.
“The joint operation of [the] county 911 center allowed us to dispatch units from all over the county instantaneously, something that, in the past, we didn’t have the capability of doing,” Parrish said.
“The emergency alert system is absolutely vital,” said Michael Becker, MSU spokesperson and director of the campus news service. “I mean, in a situation where we’ve got something fast moving happening, we’d want to get that information out quickly.”
And with that, the shelter-in-place was lifted. No one was hurt, and the man was sent to the Gallatin County Detention Center. Without the help of technology and teamwork, Parrish said this could have ended much differently.
“They followed the procedures that we trained them in doing, they listened to the emergency alert,” Parrish said. “I’d also like to really thank leadership here at MSU because without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to put these security measures in place that I believe make MSU very safe.”
The campus police chief said it is too soon to say what charges the man will face. Investigators are still looking for the weapons they were able to confirm he had access to. Police also impounded the man’s car, which was found in a campus parking lot nearby.
Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies, Bozeman City Police, Montana Highway Patrol and Gallatin County Emergency Management were also on scene, working to end the situation swiftly and safely.
-Reported by Cody Boyer/MTN News