AC Community safe after bomb threat
The Assumption College community breathed a sigh of relief when Assumption President Francesco C. Cesareo sent a memorandum on Friday, October 17, indicating that law enforcement made an arrest of a suspect who allegedly sent a bomb threat in an anonymous email on Wednesday, October 14, to a College employee. The suspect in custody is Mohammed Braimah, a former Assumption first-year student expelled in May.
“The Cyber Crime Unit of the Worcester Policy Detective Bureau and our own College Public Safety Division are to be commended on their thorough joint investigation,” read the statement. “Thanks to the information discovered through their swift investigation, a suspect is now in custody. The suspect, a former student of the College, was expelled in the spring for disciplinary reasons during his freshman year.”
“I would like to thank the many agencies and individuals for their efforts that resulted in last night’s arrest and you for your patience and trust in the investigation,” wrote Cesareo in that same statement.
The memorandum indicates that the College will limit statements regarding the matter, and that it “has full confidence in the expertise of the District Attorney’s Office to fairly and fully prosecute this individual.”
“I was very relieved when that email was sent out that the suspect was caught and put into custody,” said senior Deanna Ambold. “It was a very stressful time.”
Braimah was arrested at 12:45 a.m. on Friday, October 17, in Worcester, Mass. According to the Telegram & Gazette, the police were able to track him down through a Yahoo! email account that was created for the purpose of sending the threat.
The College kept the Student Body up to date after they evacuated the campus through the website, automated text messages and emails.
“I was particularly happy that the College kept us on the loop about what was going on because I was concerned about students, staff, administrators and the College overall,” said senior Katherine Schmidt.
“A priority was placed not only on the safety of students, but providing a constant flow of accurate and reassuring information to students, their parents and families throughout the incident,”said Michael Guilfoyle, executive director of communications. “Through the College website, Facebook page and RAVE alerts, administrators communicated timely updates throughout the night, morning and day as information was made available. Preliminary feedback validates the thoroughness and effectiveness of these efforts. The administration again expresses its gratitude to students, parents and families for their patience, support and understanding throughout the incident.”
Assumption’s Department of Residential Life worked quickly to evacuate students and make sure they were safe.
“When we heard the call that we had to evacuate, at first my staff and I were nervous, but the Department as a whole and my staff came together and called all of our residents together and got everyone calmed down in an orderly fashion out of Salisbury Hall,” said junior Jessica Damour, head resident assistant of Salisbury Hall. “I think my staff really stepped up, and I think that was the case for the RAs across campus [that] didn’t know as much of what was going on as other students but we did our best, and I think we did a good job.”
“The Resident Assistants, Resident Directors and Leadership Team, without hesitation, responded to each area to assist residents, provide information, clear all residence halls and account for our students,” said Ted Zito, director of residential life. “The team also responded to WPI to be a resource and support for students. They brought a positive attitude and a sustained energy throughout the evacuation and were present in their areas for additional support once the College reopened.”
Assumption’s Campus Police worked with other departments at Assumption in making sure the campus was fully evacuated. They also collaborated with the Worcester Police in tracking down the suspect in custody.
“Upon verifying the threat, the Department of Public Safety working with our campus partners immediately implemented emergency protocols focusing on the safety and security of our students and staff,” said Steven Carl, chief of police and director of public safety at Assumption. “After the campus evacuation was complete, public safety, residential life and buildings and grounds staff worked in teams to search and secure all campus facilities. Campus Police worked with the Worcester Police Cyber Crime Unit to investigate a variety of leads which lead to the identification and arrest of the [alleged] individual [held] responsible for creating the threat.”
Students who had access to vehicles evacuated the College within minutes of receiving the messages.
“It was so sudden and unexpected so I didn’t really have time to process everything,” said junior Jennifer Faenza. “I wasn’t so much scared as I was shocked. I just grabbed some clothes and my backpack and left my dorm.”
Students who did not have vehicles on campus were a concern for the Assumption administration, so they worked with the Worcester Regional Transit Authority to bring buses that transported students out of campus.
“I was really thankful for the bus services and how efficient the police officers were,” said first year Izzy Camasura.
“I felt safe,” said first year Erin Jovan.
Dr. Catherine WoodBrooks, vice president of student affairs at Assumption, immediately called Philip Clay, dean of students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, asking if the Institute could house students.
“I did not hesitate to say ‘yes’ knowing it was an emergency situation and time was of essence,” said Clay. “Like all campuses, WPI has an emergency preparedness plan that addresses potential situations like evacuations and bomb scares. In this somewhat unique situation, we utilized our emergency protocols, but just applied them to [be] able to meet the needs of the Assumption community.”
Clay immediately called WPI’s Campus Police, and they began working on getting everything in order by calling in extra police and contacting the Facilities department to get Harrington Auditorium organized for the large number of Assumption students arriving.
Without knowing the exact number of students arriving at WPI, the Institute chose Harrington due to its large size and its close proximity for parents to pick up students.
WPI also made arrangements to have the AC football team practice in their facilities and the Women’s Soccer Team to play against the Golden Knights of The College of Saint Rose on WPI’s soccer field.
“[W]e were scheduled to play the #5 ranked in the country but due to the bomb threat, we were looking at postponing. This [would’ve been] a real issue, as Thursday’s weather was supposed to be down pouring and the rest of our schedule for the remainder of the season was packed,” said Nick Smith, director of athletics and recreation at Assumption. “With that said, we contacted WPI and they were able to accommodate on very short notice.”
Assumption administrators were appreciative of WPI’s cooperation, given that the students’ safety was their top priority.
“They never hesitated,” said WoodBrooks. “It was like rolling down the red carpet—they couldn’t have been more kind. They were so sweet to our students.”
“As a parent, if I’m going to receive that kind of email, I want to make sure my child is safe. I was not motivated simply by the fact that I was the President, but by the fact that I would know what parents would expect of us as an institution to make sure we protect their sons and daughters in this situation,” said Cesareo as he waived hello to students and parents coming back to campus at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
WoodBrooks expressed genuine appreciation for WPI’s Campus Police’s efforts in keeping Assumption students safe.
“I was thanking [one of the WPI police officers] again earlier [Wednesday] and he said ‘well, we know that you would do the same for us,’ and that is absolutely true,” said WoodBrooks standing near the Assumption front gate receiving students at 8 p.m.
“[W]e understood that this was a very disruptive and disturbing situation for Assumption students, we approached the situation the same way we would with our own WPI students—offering support and comfort, giving directions to students and parents who were unfamiliar with our campus, arranging for students to be able to eat in our dining hall, etc.,” wrote Clay. “For us, this was a situation where we wanted to be a good neighbor to Assumption and assist [them] in [their] time of need. It’s all part of what it means to be a member of the larger Worcester community—looking out for and supporting each other in good times as well as more challenging times.”
WPI students also housed Assumption students in need of a place to stay.
“When I was contacted to house students from Assumption, I didn’t even think twice,” said WPI senior Joshua Curto. “As a member of the Worcester Consortium, I feel as if we should all be willing to help each other out.”
When the College reopened, crowds of students came back to campus as late as 11 p.m. on Wednesday night.
“The bomb threat was a very scary situation for me and my family, due to the fact that I was so far away from home. Nonetheless, I am happy that we are back on campus and that everyone is safe,” said sophomore Marielena Layuno Matos. “I was very impressed on how Assumption’s Campus Police acted, I believe that they worked perfectly in the evacuation of campus. Now, I personally feel safer here, because I know that I can trust Campus Police to make a decision that, no mater how inconvenient, will protect us all.”
Parents and students were also relieved that everyone was safe and no harm was done to the College and its community.
“The whole situation was unnerving, but you kind of recognize it for what it is,” said parent Walt Andry. “I’m happy with the way [Assumption] responded. You kind of have to keep things in perspective. I’m glad they responded the way they did.”