The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Campus deemed safe hours after students evacuated for bomb threat investigation

The July 10 threat is the third to shake the campus community within two academic years
West Washington Street was closed July 10 as law enforcement officials investigated a bomb threat on Washington and Lee University’s campus. Photo courtesy of Julianna Stephenson.

After a seven-hour investigation of a bomb threat, university officials announced that there is no active danger to campus safety.  

The campus received a bomb threat targeting an unspecified location Wednesday morning, according to a message sent from the university’s emergency alert system at 8:16 a.m. Law enforcement arrived on campus by 8:30, according to the alert messages, and conducted a search until the threat was “resolved” shortly before 3:30 p.m. 

During the search, everyone on campus 一 including the more than 75 professors and 200 students involved in summer research 一 was asked to leave.

The campus evacuation set this threat apart from others received by the university in recent years. 

On Dec. 1, 2022, students, faculty and staff were told to avoid Elrod Commons after an anonymous student posted a bomb threat on the social media platform YikYak 一 but everyone was allowed to remain on campus as local law enforcement officials searched the building for two hours.

Nearly a year later, on Nov. 1, 2023, students, faculty and staff were ordered to shelter in place for about four hours while law enforcement conducted a building-by-building search to investigate an anonymous threat of violence sent to university officials. 

Each situation resulted in “no active threat” to campus safety, according to alert messages. But each threat of violence shook the campus community and left many frustrated by the lack of specific communication from university officials. 

During both the November lockdown and July’s evacuation, University Public Safety and the Lexington Police Department declined to comment and directed the Phi’s requests for information to Drewry Sackett, Washington and Lee’s executive director of communications and public affairs. 

“Law enforcement has advised it is continuing its investigation, so the university will not be sharing additional details at this time,” Sackett wrote in an email to the Phi after the evacuation order was lifted Wednesday afternoon.

“Everyone does seem to be in the dark,” said Ally Stump, ’26, who spent most of the morning unsure if the threat was limited to the main campus and if her village apartment was safe.

Students interviewed by the Phi said that, without specific information about the threat, they were concerned by the length of the search and the urgency of police. 

Throughout the morning, police closed every road on campus, students said. And hours after the initial notification of the threat, Lexington police cars continued rushing to campus.

Many students said they left campus on their own accord within the first few hours of the investigation. Students told the Phi in interviews that they drove to Waffle House, Starbucks, Just Games and other local businesses to stay safe while the investigation was underway.

However, Dax Citron, ’26, and Nora Jacobson, ’26, had not yet left their village apartment when four Lexington Police Department and Public Safety officers arrived around 11:30 a.m. and told them to leave, Citron said.

The officers stood in the doorway until the students packed up and left, Citron said, and then told them to report to the boneyard parking area for a headcount. But when they arrived at the boneyard, she said, there was no one else there.

Citron and Jacobson said they then ran into a man who told them he would write their names down 一 but they are unsure who this man was.

After leaving the boneyard, a police officer told the students they had to evacuate to Lylburn Downing Middle School. Citron and Jacobson told the officer they were going to go elsewhere, and she “didn’t seem to care,” Citron said.

Citron said officers would not share any information with her regarding the threat or when she would be allowed to return to campus.

When the first alert was sent in the morning, Citron and other students said they initially thought that Public Safety was just testing the emergency communications system.

Public Safety uses summer breaks as an opportunity to train, review and revise the university’s safety policies and “implement best practices to help make our community safe,” according to an email sent by Director of Public Safety Craig VanClief to university students, faculty and staff on July 9.

The email said Public Safety would be testing key card access and the emergency communications system  一 and running “active assailant training” 一 on July 16 and 18. Some students mistook Wednesday’s bomb threat for the planned drills.

Almost nine hours after the first alert was sent, University President Will Dudley updated the Washington and Lee community via email that the threat was cleared.

“The safety of our campus is our utmost priority,” Dudley said in the email. “We take all safety concerns seriously.”

Editor’s Note: Melos Ambaye, Erika Kengni, Veronika Kolosova, Emma Malinak and Julianna Stephenson contributed reporting to this story. Updates will be published as they become available. 

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