College Student Posts Something That Sort Of Sounds Like A Threat; Law Enforcement, Mild Panic Ensue

from the but-ends-well,-even-though-the-beginning-and-middle-are-a-mess dept

If anything, the anonymous student should have been investigated for the egregious use of outdated slang.

There’s no danger at Snow College after an anonymous former student threatened the school on Facebook, state officials said.
No danger, because there was no threat. So, the past tense usage by "state officials" is completely wrong.
Police believe the out-of-state male author of the post did not plan to hurt anyone, said Derek Walk, a campus police officer.
Here's what was posted:
Let's just say, homecoming weekend is gonna go out with a bang. And the football game is gonna be one no one is ever gonna forget.
If you're like me, you're probably picturing lots of heavily drinking, possibly culminating in some gametime streaking.

If you're like a lot of the commenters in this screenshot, you're apparently picturing a DHS-suspicion-raising shopping trip for pressure cookers and other fine explodables, followed by the opening scene of "The Last Boy Scout."


Ultimately, no one was charged and locked up with insurmountable bail. Officers did serve a warrant to Google, which coughed up the IP address and ultimately tracked down the suspect. (Yes, I was also confused by this turn of events, but apparently one of the few roads to Facebook anonymity leads directly through Google Docs.) The only thing noticeably different was a larger police presence during that week, which went as routinely un-bombed as the countless weeks preceding it. No charges have been filed, nor does it appear there will be.
Attorney General Sean Reyes praised the work of local officers.

"We are pleased to have been part of this successful outcome," Reyes said in a prepared statement.

Snow College President Gary Carlston added he’s happy no one was harmed over the weekend and is grateful for the officers’ quick response.
Presumably, the student was fully cleared of any potential wrongdoing and mocked gently for his use of the phrase "going out with a bang" by an officer drawing the shape of square with his opposing index fingers.

As usual, the thought process is: you can never be too careful. And while I appreciate the fact no one wants to be the one who ignores a potential threat because it doesn't sound scary enough, there's something to be said for not allowing a perpetual fear of rare, highly-isolated incidents to govern your official responses, much less your Facebook interactions. I personally think the anonymity aspect of the posting made it seem more threatening than one made by someone easily identifiable by other students -- something that would have allowed the use of context to frame the "confession." (And while we're on the subject, these same students don't seem too moved to report anonymous comments containing an actual specific threat, admissions of criminal behavior or use of slang even more outdated than "out with a bang.")

I am, however, pleased that this incident didn't turn out like others have -- with someone arrested and/or facing excessive bail -- simply because panic has become the default mode in all school settings.

Filed Under: investigations, out with a bang, police, threats
Companies: snow college


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 3:57pm

    Words Kill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:14pm

    Thanks for the pot Mike It's "The Bomb":)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:17pm

    "And while I appreciate the fact no one wants to be the one who ignores a potential threat because it doesn't sound scary enough, there's something to be said for not allowing a perpetual fear of rare, highly-isolated incidents to govern your official responses, much less your Facebook interactions."

    I can see how that comment could reasonably be interpreted as being potentially threatening. If something had happened and law enforcement ignored this after seeing it (or being tipped to it) then people would (rightfully) complain that law enforcement ignored a very important potential threat. I think it's better for law enforcement to err on the side of caution here. While I'm usually in agreement with Techdirt on much of what it posts on this one I kinda disagree and I think that law enforcement didn't do anything wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 7 Oct 2014 @ 5:35pm

      Re:

      Except that it flatly contradicts police behavior when a person is actually threatened via the internet in a clear and violent manner. Then it's "just trolls".

      And no that comment can not reasonably interpreted that way by anyone reasonable. And i rather suspect there are ten thousand comments online about any school using expressive language with violent metaphors they could go hunt down.

      Just, no.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      I don't see how that comment was even remotely threatening, personally. But, since the replies to it indicate that others thought it sounded threatening, I suppose that I just don't have my paranoia unbridled enough.

      While I'm glad that nobody was arrested, this sort of thing terrifies me. This does nothing but encourage self-censorship and second-guessing any words you are about to say. That's a dangerous road to go down.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      fancylad, 8 Oct 2014 @ 12:57pm

      Re:

      "I can see how that comment could reasonably be interpreted as being potentially threatening."

      New to the English language huh?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:26pm

    Just goes to show how much fear the USG has created.

    These sissy boys like Derek and Zachary are running around scared of their little shadows. And the girls, well all my granddaughters are tougher by far, including the little 3 year old.

    I remember a time when such a comment would have engendered an interest in what tomfoolery would have be on the agenda.

    I watched a video from the mid-1950's last night and the speaker was saying just what you see with the population today being afraid as a prediction of government policy and tactics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:44pm

      Re: Just goes to show how much fear the USG has created.

      That's true. They're cowards and wimps -- doing EXACTLY what every real criminal and real terrorist wants them to do: cringing, whining, panicking, spreading fear while pissing their pants.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:27pm

    Has there ever been a single case of an actual terrorist announcing his next planned target?

    If not, then the untold thousands of people who got in trouble with authorities by letting slip a bad joke or just talking nonsense were all for naught.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:32pm

    If you see something, freak out assume the worst and panic.
    We are becoming a nation of ZOMG responses to everything.
    They talked about a school!!! It must be a threat.
    They were near children!!! Must be pedophiles.
    They were brown!!! Must be terrorists.

    Once upon a time we had common sense, and didn't live in constant fear of a nonexistant boogeyman behind everything.
    Today we are terrified of the whatif's, well maybe's, and Faux News told me I should be scared of this... all while ignoring the very terrifying fact that we have lost most of our guaranteed rights.
    Secret laws, secret orders, secret courts... and all we have to show for it is nothing. We traded our rights to be more secure, and we've only been made more fearful and much less secure as those tasked with watching over us have military grade weapons that they can use for any reason, and not ever be held accountable.
    We have "professionals" trying to target groups that disagree with them for invasive terrorist investigations because it is now a crime to not agree with everyone else.

    We need to stop pretending there is a terrorist in every pot, and demand reform of an out of control system that is approaching 3rd world dictatorship levels of paranoia and abuse of citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:40pm

      Re:

      Great Post, you stated everything I was thinking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 7 Oct 2014 @ 5:49pm

      Re:

      I agree with everything except the "Once upon a time" part. The methods of madness have simply changed with culture and technology. Certainly some times have been better than others, but they are fairly short lived and their has never been any such animal as common sense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 6:32pm

      Re:

      Faux News told me I should be scared of this

      Why you single out Fox News? All the major media outlets spread fear and panic.

      Tune into the news tonight when we will reveal the next threat to you and your family. This is standard operating procedure for main stream news not just Fox.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 7 Oct 2014 @ 11:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Faux lead the charge to the bottom, hit it, kept on going. Everyone else followed suit.

        News lives on ratings, and reporting absolute crap and appealing to base instincts gets them viewers.
        No one wants to pay to have good journalism anymore, they think it should make them money.

        60 Minutes was an untouchable show for a very long time.
        Then they sold out to one of the **AA's, then they got caught making shit up.
        Bullshit sells... Look at TMZs ratings.
        TMZ is at least honest about what they are doing, they never try to pretend to be unbiased and offering all sides.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mike_M, 8 Oct 2014 @ 12:41am

      Re:

      Because we gave up our personal responsibilities to care for and defend ourselves in favor of letting big government take care of us. And well, they can't take care of us so we're scared and helpless...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2014 @ 4:29am

        Re: Re:

        It was forced on us, we really didn't and don't have much of a choice In the matter , If we did it would no longer be like this , there are no individual opt outs and no politician or political party will save us now .

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2014 @ 4:24am

      Re:

      Illuminati.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 4:36pm

    Justin Carter

    You referenced Justin Carter's case where the judge held him under a demand for 500k in bail. His trial finally starts for real in 3 weeks. It's been a while since I've seen you cover this case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 5:11pm

    Tomorrow's forecast

    Calls for a lingering chill[ing effect].

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AC, 7 Oct 2014 @ 5:23pm

    Do you know Snow College?

    "If you're like me, you're probably picturing lots of heavily drinking, possibly culminating in some gametime streaking."

    Snow College is located in rural Utah, and is named after historic Mormon figures. I've never been there, but drinking and streaking are most definitely NOT the first things I would picture at any event there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 5:28pm

    Good thing he didn't post "Let's eat grandma." If that's not a direct threat, I don't know what is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2014 @ 6:12pm

    Yes sir, the thought police in action. What in the hell ever happened to common sense? I think the terrorists stole it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DogBreath, 7 Oct 2014 @ 6:20pm

    Thank goodness the college student poster was not a breeder of small wiry dogs...

    or he could have ended up on the terrierist watch list, and this could have happened to him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 1:03am

    Hint for cops, people intend on bombing do not leave notes until after...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2014 @ 3:56am

    "...potentially terrifying implications..."

    Which of these sets of words causes you to feel most panicky?

    1) bell, tower, snipe;
    2) pressure, cooker, blast;
    3) assault, rifle, spray;
    4) butcher, knife, slash;
    5) post, letter, anthrax;
    6) government, agency, snoop.

    If you picked items from (1) thru (5) but not (6), you prob'ly work for some gov't agency. If you picked (6), some gov't agency would prob'ly like to speak with you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    New Mexico Mark, 8 Oct 2014 @ 5:16am

    There are other things besides terrorism

    I could see how some folks might be concerned about that post. "No danger, because there was no threat" is a great 20/20 hindsight observation. The message was potentially threatening, and given the anonymity, could have been a depressed / disaffected student planning a personal vendetta of some kind. I find it even more interesting that this turned out to be a former student who had left the school recently.

    I agree that the article was over the top. I'm guessing that in a small town, even parking tickets make the "police blotter". However, I think all the actions taken by law enforcement were reasonable, measured responses.

    1. After other posters noted that the anonymous post sounded threatening (giving the anonymous poster a chance to clarify or reword), an officer asked the poster to contact him. In the blog! Had the poster done so, the whole thing could probably have been cleared up with a phone call. Contrast that to police departments who immediately escalate to DHS/swat teams.
    2. Failing to get a response, they took reasonable action to find who posted the article. The article isn't clear as to whether the police just "tracked" him or actually interviewed him. I suspect the former because of the heightened security at the game.
    3. They never even outed the poster, which is outstanding given the proclivity for law enforcement to sustain injuries from patting their own backs at the expense of potential perps.

    The police actions didn't waste a lot of resources. (And lets face it, in a smaller area like this, you could probably chalk up the added security and alertness to the "training" budget.)

    This should be held up as a positive example of law enforcement doing their job without generating panic or wasting huge resources. As for the person writing that article? "I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 7:57am

      Re: There are other things besides terrorism

      "This should be held up as a positive example of law enforcement doing their job without generating panic or wasting huge resources."

      The police response wasn't terrible, this is true. A better response, given the clear nonthreatening nature of the post, would have been to say nothing and just keep an eye on the account.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2014 @ 1:31pm

      Re: There are other things besides terrorism

      A single post does not equal a realistic threat, or even reason for the police to take any action. In all cases where posting has indicated a threat there has been a long history of disturbing posts.
      Acting on a single post is a means of giving the police blanket authority to conduct an interrogation and search whenever they want, or when told to by authority figures.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    X, 8 Oct 2014 @ 5:21am

    .

    Snow College is going to go out with a bang this weekend.

    So sue me motherfuckers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      x, 8 Oct 2014 @ 5:30am

      Yes, you read it right.

      Someone is going to fire a cap gun on campus this weekend.

      You better arrest anyone walking around on campus this weekend. Especially that old lady who is the secretary in the main admin building.

      Just the fact that she is walking on campus means she is a terrist.

      You can't be too careful you fucking dumbasses. Just arrest everybody to be safe. All you police morons need to arrest yourselves too. I mean, you are walking around with guns in public, and according to your own idiot definitions, that makes you terrists.

      Dumbasses.

      :-D

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 6:57am

    As a Bostonian

    This reminds me of how the Boston PD successfully thwarted the Mooninite invasion plot. Luckily, nobody was hurt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2014 @ 5:29am

      Re: As a Bostonian

      Yep. This is the same bunch of incompetent assholes who didn't stop the Boston marathon bombing -- and then needed to turn the entire city upside-down for days and deploy military vehicles to apprehend one frightened, wounded kid.

      Bravo. (slow clap)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 8:30am

    Slang

    "Go out with a bang" is outdated slang? Maybe I'm older than I thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2014 @ 1:26pm

    They didn't think something would happen, but they were panicked about the possibility of being blamed if something happened. Let's put the motive for panic into true perspective.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 3:03pm

    Oh I will respond...

    Yes. I will respond. I will respond, indeed. And it will be a response the likes of which no one has ever seen in all of their pathetic little lives.

    Muhuhuhahahahahahahaha! Muhuhuhahahahahahahaha! Muhuhuhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    ...

    Melodrama is now indicative of criminal intent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    richard40 (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 3:19pm

    The Oklahoma beheader had peons to El Quaida, and the glory of beheading people for Allah, on his facebook page, and nobody pays any attention. In the mean time this guy uses a perfectly innocent expression, "going out with a bang" and they get a terror alert. Something is badly wrong here. I suppose we cant be guilty of Islamophobic profiling, and we have to distribute our police attention equally. No wonder the Jihadists are killing us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 8 Oct 2014 @ 9:02pm

      Re:

      The Oklahoma beheader had peons to El Quaida, and the glory of beheading people for Allah, on his facebook page

      Peons are persons with little authority or status; paeans are expressions of joy or praise. Kind of made me do a double take on that one. :-)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 8 Oct 2014 @ 8:15pm

    "Once upon a time, the word 'bomb' was used to describe a movie that didn't do well at the box office. Bad movies were said to have 'bombed'. Even professional reviewers would occasionally use this term to describe poorly received movies.

    The phrase fell out of use in the early 21st century when military SWAT teams began raiding the offices of any publication that published a review with the word 'bomb' in it and several people were shot to death in military style raids on their homes after using the word to describe their predictions of a movie's chances of success.

    Now, in today's world of 2115, you won't hear the word 'bomb' used except when talking about an explosive device, and even then it is generally only used when referring to an existing real world event. While it isn't technically a crime to use the word 'bomb' in other contexts, most people don't consider it worth the risk. Even fans discussing an action movie are reluctant to use the word in light of the number of people whose homes have been raided by the U.S. Domestic Army (once known as 'Police').

    It's hard to imagine a world where people could have once used a phrase like 'This movie is going to bomb at the box office' without triggering a city-wide lockdown and the author spending at least a year in solitary confinement while they await trial, but that's what this country used to be like in the dark ages of the late 20th and early 21st centuries."*


    *After this article was published, the author was arrested, tried and convicted of spreading anti-government propaganda under the NoFear Act.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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