WIU increases security after note about on-campus shooting

By Pamela Nisivaco

MACOMB, Ill. – Authorities at Western Illinois University told students they did not have to attend classes today as police investigated an alleged threat of an on-campus shooting.

Although classes continued Wednesday, students were not penalized for not attending and faculty and staff were given the option of not coming to campus.

WIU officials said an employee at an apartment complex near the Macomb campus received a handwritten note in a payment drop-box at 8:30 a.m. that indicated there would be an on-campus shooting on Wednesday.

As a precaution, residence halls were locked and are accessible only by residents with keys.

Patrick Schultz, senior at WIU, lives in Washington Hall on campus and said he woke this morning to the ringing of his room phone with an emergency message about the note.

The phone message is part of a new emergency alert system at WIU. The system was tested in December 2007. Since then, it has been used a few times this winter due to weather conditions, Bonnie Barker, public information specialist, said. Students, staff and faculty were alerted to icy conditions, she said.

Anyone who is employed at WIU or an active student is automatically signed up for the emergency alert system, but they can go online and personalize their settings. The options include receiving phone calls, emails or text messages.

Schultz said he did not take the threat too seriously.

“I think if someone is going to do a shooting on campus they wouldn’t send a note before they do it,” he said. “It’s really a shame because if students don’t want to go to class they can just write up a note about shooting up the campus.”

WIU President Al Goldfarb said the anonymous off-campus threat forced the school to take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty.

He also said police patrols have been increased on campus and the University is working with Macomb police to find whoever is responsible for the threat.

An assessment by Goldfarb and the public safety department at WIU was held at 4 p.m. Wednesday to reveal any findings in the investigation and plans for Thursday’s classes.

Darcie Shinberger, a University relations spokeswoman said the University will return to their regular operative schedule beginning at 8 a.m., but the campus will remain at a state of heightened police presence throughout the day.

Residence halls will remain locked and will only be available with keys until further notice.

Today students were allowed to personal discretion to work or attend class, but Shinberger said students “definitely need to return to classes and work tomorrow.”

Shinberger said they are working with the Macomb area Crimestoppers to offer a reward to any person who provides information leading to an arrest.

Goldfarb and his wife donated $1,000 to the reward and the management of the apartment complex that received the note has also donated $1,000 to Crimestoppers.

“We certainly hope this will prompt someone to come forward,” Shinberger said.

Police had no further update about note, and the investigation to determine who placed the note in the drop box is still being investigated.

Shinberger said, “We will prosecute to the fullest extent possible.”

The Associated Press and Brittany Abeijon contributed to this report

Check back with DailyIllini.com for more updates as they occur.