September 12, 2023

Police records detail April threat at UA law school

UA officials say there is currently no known threat to the University community related to this incident.

UA Law school 2 The entrance to the James E. Rogers College of Law on the University of Arizona campus.
Nick O'Gara/AZPM

The University of Arizona is offering some clarity on an April incident that forced the James E. Rogers College of Law to end classes for one day and go virtual for two more.

UA’s Chief Safety Officer Steve Patterson emailed the campus community Friday afternoon saying the April incident was deemed a mental health matter–not criminal.

“The investigation by the University of Arizona Police Department found that friends identified a student in crisis off-campus in April and sought care for their friend,” said Patterson.

University of Arizona Police records obtained by AZPM show the student, who is now banned from campus due to the disruptive nature of the incident, was sending text messages to her peers and posting messages on Instagram that said: - “All the gay people I know in the US are afraid for their life every day. I pack a loaded 9mm around with me because I’d rather kill a transphobe than get killed, but even then I’d still probably die in a gunfight…” - “I don’t want to die. I think I will make it out. But if I don’t make it out. Read this at my funeral.”

According to the reports, the student carried a 9MM handgun that she was known to bring to campus. The student was concerned that she would be a victim of a mass shooting.

“She has a gun and takes it to the university even though she knows she’s not supposed to but uses it for protection in case she is attacked,” said the report.

After the student began to post the messages, friends of the student reported the behavior to UAPD and eventually turned the gun in to authorities after the student was admitted into a hospital for mental health concerns. According to the police report, when friends of the student went to take her to the hospital, they described the student’s mental health state as “manic.”

“(The student) was talking oddly and that within the odd speech, (the student) stated, ‘I’m gonna shoot people’ as well as ‘they’re gonna come to shoot me’ and ‘I’m gonna shoot them before they shoot me,’” said the report.

In their investigation, the police department found a search history on the student’s phone containing searches such as:

  • Mass shootings
  • Genocides
  • New Mexico Police Shootings
  • Tucson shooting ranges
  • Michigan State Shooting
  • What’s good accuracy in shooting?

Some of the messages that were found in the student’s phone were described by a friend as “threatening messages referencing killing people at the UA campus.”

According to the report, in May, the student was entered into a federal database for mental health, which would place a federal flag to deny the student from purchasing a firearm.

The student has since received supervised care following the incident and the gun is still in police custody. Patterson says, “there is currently no known threat to the University community related to this incident.”

The student's name is redacted from the report due to “privacy and confidentiality issues.”

AZPM asked a UA spokesperson how the campus community is going to be aware of how to stay "vigilant" for individuals who are banned from campus property if they do not know who they are. The spokesperson referred AZPM to the police report and Patterson’s statement.

The university also maintains a list, including photos, of people banned from campus. UA officials did not respond to questions about whether or not the student in question is part of that website, if the student is still enrolled, and how long the ban is for.

“The April incident is an important reminder that all of us must remain vigilant in the face of threatening or concerning behavior. We are grateful for the individuals in our community, including students and employees, who noticed a student in distress and took the step to rapidly report their concerns to authorities. Because of their actions, law enforcement and University officials were able to take the appropriate safety steps to both protect the community and provide needed resources to the student,” said Patterson in his campus-wide email.

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