UJ investigation: Police, university continue investigating incident
In the wake of Thursday’s lockdown at the University of Jamestown, school officials and police continue to gather information.
The meeting was closed to the public.
“We know it’s not the last conversation we need to have on campus, as there will continue to be questions and after-effects from this experience,” said Bob Badal, president of the University of Jamestown. “… I think it was the first step toward building a better understanding of recent events on campus for the students.”
Meanwhile, the Jamestown Police Department continues to investigate the case.
The lockdown was issued at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday, after student Robert Flores, 18, allegedly threatened specific students and then went missing. The lockdown ended at about 11:30 a.m.
Flores is not a danger to the public, said Police Chief Scott Edinger.
“He’s not out on the street. He has not been arrested,” Edinger said, emphasizing that the investigation is still in its early stages. “He is receiving some sort of health care. To this point, he has not been formally charged.”
The Stutsman County State’s Attorney Office will decide whether to charge Flores after it receives a report from the JPD, Edinger said.
“The student is currently under treatment, being assessed, and is not actively a student, as far as I know,” Badal said, adding that treatment is “a process that doesn’t happen instantly.”
Information from the call log of the Stutsman County Communications Center indicates that the call to police prompting the lockdown came from Gary Van Zinderen, the university’s dean of students, at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
That log entry states “Robert Flores has threatened other students and himself. Stated he was going to kill three girl students and drink their blood as a satanic ritual. Unknown where male is at this time.”
A previous report in the log, made at 1:14 a.m. Thursday, states “(UJ campus security) requests officers for a very strange male ... making strange ‘satanic’ threats.”
The police call log reflects only what was reported during the call, not necessarily what actually occurred and does not include any investigation.
Between the two calls, Flores left, and police wanted to find and question him about the allegations, Edinger said.
“That’s why we went to look for him,” he added.
The people that Flores allegedly threatened will not be available for police to speak with until Monday at the earliest, Edinger said.
“(Flores) is denying that those things ever happened,” Edinger said. “He acknowledges that he spoke about it, but he denies making any type of threats.”
Like police, the university is also in the process of gathering more information about the incidents that led up to its first-ever lockdown.
While the school has had certain types of emergency drills before, it has never done a complete exercise with staging, Badal said.
“We certainly are involved with crisis planning, and we do spend time with tabletop exercises and that sort of thing,” he said.
While the school’s email system was effective in communicating the lockdown to students, there were some reports that texts from its emergency text messaging system were not received by some who had opted in, Badal said.
Even so, word spread quickly and the campus was entirely shut down during the lockdown.
“Faculty and staff that were in each building did a great job of communicating to people in the buildings what was going on,” said Polly Peterson, the university’s vice president for advancement and business affairs.
“I feel like it’s not going to be perfect. This was our first time that we’ve ever had something of this magnitude. We will be debriefing and talking about the things that went well, and didn’t go well, and making adjustments, I’m sure,” Peterson added. “But I feel like overall, people were able to get the information and people did stay inside.
“They did understand that they needed to stay where they felt they were safe. So I think, for the most part, we were able to reach the people we needed to reach,” she said.
The incident could potentially lead the university to fine-tune its procedures in the future, Badal said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org