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May 3, 2012

Threats end; investigation continues

Although visible security in University buildings has returned to normal and the bomb threats that disrupted the Pittsburgh campus over the span of 10 weeks have come to an apparent end, the investigation continues into who is responsible for the more than 130 threats since mid-February.

“We have to find out who’s been threatening us,” said Pitt Police Chief Timothy Delaney.

Finals week and commencement went uninterrupted, albeit under heightened security that included ID checks and security searches.

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg made a brief reference to the bomb threats in his April 29 commencement address, in which he praised members of the graduating class for their strength and resiliency.

In contrast to Pitt’s Arrival Survival move-in initiative, Nordenberg quipped, “In thinking about today, I wondered if we should perhaps flip things around and refer to this as ‘survival arrival,’” given that this year’s Pitt graduates survived recession, G-20-related unrest, an attempted city tuition tax and cuts in state education funding along with the recent bomb threats.

“We fought hard to meet each of those challenges and continue moving forward. We pulled together, looked for the good that can come from adversity and created even stronger bonds,” Nordenberg said. “The qualities that you’ve displayed in meeting unwanted challenges that have come our way will serve you well in other settings.”

The last bomb threats on campus came April 21 for Litchfield Towers, Salk Hall, the Cathedral of Learning, Pennsylvania Hall, Ruskin Hall and Scaife Hall, the same day the University took down its posted $50,000 reward for information on who was behind the threats.

The Pitt News reported that on April 20 it received an anonymous email from a group that claimed responsibility for some of the bomb threats. The group promised to end the threats if the reward offer were withdrawn. After the reward notice was removed from Pitt’s web page, The Pitt News reported it received another anonymous email stating that the threat “campaign” had ended since the demand had been met.

Federal agents last week returned computer equipment belonging to former Pitt-Johnstown student Seamus Johnston and his wife, Katherine Anne McCloskey, who had been identified as persons of interest in the investigations.

Johnston, a transgendered man who has lodged a discrimination complaint against the University with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, has denied involvement, contending they have been targeted in the bomb threat investigation due to his dispute with the University.

The FBI, which has been assisting in the investigation, did not respond to multiple University Times requests for a comment on the investigation.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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