Pat Brennan / Senior Lantern reporter
Although Ohio State University Police believe the initial threat of a shooting on campus has ended, they have not yet identified the source of the issue and an investigation is pending.
“Ohio State University Police have been investigating postings to fantasy, role-player game sites which referenced a potential public safety threat of a shooting at OSU,” said University Police Chief Paul Denton. “We continue to investigate and are taking this seriously.”
University Police released a public safety notice via email and text message to faculty, staff and students between 11:30 a.m. and noon Wednesday, warning the university community of the threat, which Denton said was “specific to a cafeteria at The Ohio State University.”
“We felt it important to notify the university community to heighten awareness and to stress the importance of ‘if you see something, say something,’ and report suspicious activities or individuals to the appropriate authorities,” Denton said.
Denton said University Police received information Tuesday about potential threats being made across multiple fantasy game websites, and “immediately initiated an investigation.”
He said it was initially unclear whether threats toward “OSU” referenced Ohio State, until receiving more information Tuesday “just before midnight” from a chat room moderator on one of those websites.
“I want to recognize the efforts of the responsible users, players and moderators of these sites for making us aware so we could begin investigating,” Denton said. “We worked through the night to assess the information and the credibility of the threat.”
Vernon Baisden, OSU’s assistant vice president for public safety, said the efforts of the site users played an important role in initiating the investigation.
“They were certainly concerned also about the community here at OSU, and they did the right thing by contacting us,” Baisden said.
Denton said police will continue to monitor the situation until they are certain the threat is over.
“We have expert police and security presence on or around campus dining facilities,” Denton said. “Although we have moved past the window of concern, we will continue to have additional resources and presence for as long as necessary. The safety of our campus is our top priority.”
Denton said University Police is confident there was a “specific window of mention” for the threat, but did not disclose when that window was due to the pending investigation.
“The assessment that was conducted by our collective partners was enough for us to believe that window of concern (had passed),” Baisden said.
Jay Kasey, OSU senior vice president for Administration and Planning, said the person responsible for the threat has not yet been determined.
“The matter will not be considered complete or closed until we’ve identified the individual or individuals who are responsible for this incident,” Kasey said.
Denton said his department has received support from the Columbus Division of Police, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the FBI in the investigation.
Denton said there would continue to be a police presence at campus dining facilities throughout Wednesday evening. As for whether the security presence will continue Thursday, Baisden said the situation is being handled “one day at a time.”
The public safety notice stated that anyone with information concerning the threat should contact University Police or Columbus Police.
University Police sent another email notice at about 4 p.m. Wednesday to inform the university community that it has moved past the window of concern but will maintain “security presence and heightened awareness for as long as necessary.”
However, some students didn’t think the alerts were necessary.
“It’s kind of weird. We get a lot of safety notices. I start to ignore them,” said Joshua Searcy, a fifth-year in sociology. “I don’t think it’s really a public safety thing.”
Wesley Rawlins, a second-year in pharmaceutical sciences, had similar thoughts on the subject.
“It’s silly. I don’t think it’s really worth sending a Public Safety Notice about,” he said.
The increased police and security presence applies to areas on or around campus dining facilities, including the Wexner Medical Center. Officers at OSU’s regional campuses were also informed of the threat and took necessary precautions, according to the afternoon notice.
Kasey said he is “proud of the teamwork and response” OSU’s public safety team has displayed in the investigation.
“We’re thankful that nothing tragic happened on campus today,” Kasey said.
Meghan Wallis contributed to this report.
In an earlier version of this story quoted a student named Joshua Searey, however his last name is spelled Searcy.