Student charged in university threats, will be evaluated

AP News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2015 7:48 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A student who Mississippi State University officials say threatened to kill himself and others will face misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges and has been referred for a mental and psychological evaluation.

MSU police arrested Phu-Qui Cong "Bill" Nguyen, a freshman from Madison, after a campus alert warning of an "active shooter" prompted a lockdown. MSU Police Chief Vance Rice said Nguyen did not have a gun when they arrested him, that no shots were fired on the 20,000-student campus in Starkville, and no one was hurt.

MSU spokesman Sid Salter said he didn't know if Nguyen, a computer engineering major, had a lawyer who could speak for him. The Associated Press could not locate his family members Thursday.

Warren Strain, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said Nguyen was on the phone with an Army recruiter in the Jackson area when the recruiter became concerned that Nguyen was considering suicide and directed a co-worker to call MSU. The Mississippi Highway Patrol was also called and told the university that Nguyen was threatening to shoot others, according to a transcript of the call released by MSU.

"MSU to all units, we have a possible active shooter in Carpenter Hall," the university police dispatcher then broadcast, according to the transcript. "This is not a test."

The university sent text and Internet alerts to students, faculty and staff, sending them scrambling to lock themselves into offices and classrooms. Nguyen was arrested a short time later in front of McCool Hall on the Drill Field, the quadrangle at the heart of campus.

"When the university receives a credible threat, the Maroon alert process kicks in," Salter said at a news conference. "We don't wait around for a student or staffer or a faculty member to be injured. We implement the policy as soon as that threat is recognized."

Rice told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that Nguyen was taken to a local hospital.

"We have watched over him in a compassionate manner despite the disruption on campus," Salter told The Associated Press.

Richard Corey, who provides information technology support for the university's engineering school, said he received a text alert to his phone, prompting him and about a dozen other people to lock themselves into the engineering dean's office on the second floor of the McCain Engineering Building, which faces the Drill Field.

"It was very tense, everyone was very nervous," said Corey, who has worked at MSU since 2008. "It was difficult to accept the reality that this was happening in front of us."

Corey said he watched through a window as students were evacuated from the student union across the field, and then saw police cars pull onto the grassy area. A short time later, he saw Nguyen handcuffed and taken away by MSU police.

The campus remained nervous after the arrest, though, with rumors of additional threats circulating online. Corey said he saw students running and hiding even after an all-clear was issued.

"A lot of students are kind of wandering around in a daze, talking on their cellphones to their loved ones," he said.

MSU officials, though, said the threat was over and resumed classes at 2 p.m.

"It's our intent to get back to normal as quickly as we can," MSU President Mark Keenum said at the news conference.

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