S. Illinois student accused of terrorist threat attempt

By Jim Suhr

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A Southern Illinois University student who recently ordered several semiautomatic weapons online has been accused of threatening a “murderous rampage” similar to the Virginia Tech shootings that left 32 people and the gunman dead.

A gun dealer had alerted federal authorities about Olutosin Oduwole, saying he had seemed overly anxious to get the semiautomatic weapons, according to an affidavit filed in court by a police detective.

The 22-year-old from Maplewood, N.J. was charged Tuesday with attempting to make a terrorist threat, a felony. He remained jailed Wednesday on $1 million bond.

According to court documents, Oduwole wrote a note demanding payment to a PayPal account, threatening that “if this account doesn’t reach $50,000 in the next 7 days then a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!”

John Cernkovich, Oduwole’s attorney on unrelated theft and fraud charges filed last week, described Oduwole as a musician who writes rap lyrics and said the threatening note was on a sheet of paper that included rap words.

“I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I understand that in this environment – post-Sept. 11 – authorities don’t take any chances,” Cernkovich said. “Unfortunately, my client now is in custody because of that.”

Authorities found the note Friday in Oduwole’s car abandoned on campus, university spokesman Greg Conroy said.

The note had suggested the shooting would target a “prestigious” university, but that word was crossed out. There was no direct mention of the 13,500-student Southern Illinois University in this city about 20 miles northeast of St. Louis.

Police said they found a loaded gun in Oduwole’s campus apartment.

According to a search warrant, police also seized a picture of Oduwole flashing gang signs, a camcorder and U.S. and Nigerian passports. The court documents did not list the name on those passports.

Cernkovich said his client is a U.S. citizen and Illinois resident and that after twice talking with him in recent days, he described Oduwole as “pretty normal.”

“I didn’t think he was an irrational person,” Cernkovich said. “I didn’t notice any unusual behavior or outlandish statements.”

Oduwole was charged July 19 with theft and fraud for selling an M-16 machine gun online, but failing to ship the buyer the weapon, prosecutors said.

Investigators said in the affidavit that Oduwole recently bought three .38-caliber semiautomatic guns online but had not yet received them, and he ordered a .45-caliber semiautomatic gun similar to an Uzi.

A gun dealer alerted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because Oduwole “appeared very anxious to get these firearms and seemed very impatient,” the affidavit said.

Steve Holeman, 24, a Southern Illinois University senior who identified himself as Oduwole’s friend, said Wednesday the matter was “absolutely a misunderstanding.” He declined to discuss it further.

Oduwole is president of the local chapter of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity and was taking summer classes. His red-bricked apartment complex is on the edge of the Edwardsville campus.

He first attended the school during the 2005-06 year and sat out a year on academic probation, said school spokesman Conroy.

Cernkovich said Oduwole’s father was in the area Wednesday, scrambling to ferret out the charges and following Cernkovich’s advice that he find an attorney to represent his son on the threat-related counts. Cernkovich said the Tuesday charges escalated beyond the work he wanted to do on Oduwole’s behalf.

“His dad’s having a difficult time understanding how the system works,” Cernkovich said.