Ozarks Technical Community College, Evangel University, Rountree Elementary School and two libraries in central Springfield were locked down early Wednesday afternoon because of a "potential threat." Shortly before 2 p.m., Springfield police arrested the man who they think made the threat. That ended the lock downs.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said late Wednesday afternoon that social media caused panic about the vague threat to a college campus to spread quickly after it got mixed up with a separate incident about the same time involving two men in a green car who may have had a gun at Drury University. Williams said that situation seems to have involved a dispute over an empty parking space outside Trustee Science Center at Drury, but it had nothing to do with the possible threat to to a college campus from a man in south Springfield.
Williams said U.S. Homeland Security first heard about the threat because a man made the threat at the U.S. Social Security office on West Battlefield Road between Fort and Kansas avenues. Homeland Security then told Greene County emergency dispatchers about it.
The man is in custody on a 24-hour hold on suspicion of making a terrorist threat. Williams said Springfield police will work with federal agents to see if he faces a federal charge. When he was arrested at the Social Security office, where he showed up for a scheduled hearing of some kind, the man did not have a weapon.
Here's a message to reporters from the Springfield Police Department at 3:30:
"The Springfield Police Department (SPD) received information from the Department of Homeland Security and was asked to be on the lookout for a person making general threats. We took the precautionary move of making notifications to any institution or venue that might be impacted. Each organization implemented its own procedures used when advised of such a threat. This subject was said to be mentally disturbed and has made similar threats in the past.
"The subject who made the threats was located and detained. We are not yet releasing the name of the individual.
"During this time frame, a call was received at Drury University about a person possibly flashing a gun from a vehicle. This has not been confirmed. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and SPD responded. This was a separate incident. There was not an 'active shooter' on a campus."
Here's an (edited) message to reporters from OTC at 4:05 p.m.:
"At approximately 12:45 p.m., OTC went under a Red Alert emergency after being notified by the Homeland Security office of a call it had received concerning individual stating he was going to go on a Springfield college campus and start shooting.
"The campus-wide phone-alert system, emergency text messaging system and the College’s various social media platforms were used to inform everyone on campus of the emergency situation and to keep them apprised of any updates.
"Safety and security officers swept all buildings to make sure everyone was safe at all times. As a result of everyone’s quick action, the campus was in complete lockdown just minutes after receiving the alert from authorities.
"All students, faculty and staff were kept safe in campus classrooms and offices, waiting for the all-clear announcement, which came at 1:55 p.m. and classes returned to normal."
A message on OTC's website early in the afternoon urged everyone on campus to seek refuge in a locked office or locked classroom. The lockdown was ordered due to the potential threat, according to the message.
Here's the message initially sent out by Drury University's Office of Safety and Security and forwarded by OTC to its students and staff:
"Security department has just received information from the 911 Emergency Center, who was contacted by Homeland Security, there has been a threat made by an individual, named Dustin Leer, white man, around 35 years of age, to go onto a Springfield college campus and start shooting. The Social Security Office in Springfield has also received threats from this individual that he was going to 'kill everyone' and a Springfield judge has been threatened.
"Approximately 12:45 p.m., Security received a report from a student there were two white men, one heavy and one skinny with a shaved head, who pointed what appeared to be a gun at them around the Trustee Science Center. Springfield Police has been contacted. This email is a precautionary measure so please be aware of your surroundings and be cautious. I will forward any more information as we receive it. "
Here's a message to reporters from a spokeswoman for the Springfield Police Department about 1:30 p.m.:
"The information we have right now is very vague. We initially received information from Homeland Security about a person making general threats and to be on the lookout. This person is said to be mentally disturbed and has made similar threats in the past, but we don’t have specific information on those threats. We don’t currently know where this person is located. Homeland Security is en route.
"As a precaution, we have alerted all universities, the Springfield School District, and the Sheriff’s Office, but the individual organizations can decide how they would like to respond to the situation. It appears some have chosen to lock down. We are actively working to follow up on information with Homeland Security. "
As a precaution, after the report of two men flashing a gun outside the Trustee Science Center, Drury canceled one class at the Science Center (not other classes as previously reported.)
Here's a message from Drury University to reporters about 3 p.m.:
"The 9-1-1 Emergency Center contacted Drury Safety and Security stating that Homeland Security received a call regarding an individual named Dustin Leer who was making threats to the Social Security office in Springfield and a judge in the Springfield area, and stated that he would go onto a Springfield college campus and start shooting.
"A text message went to Drury students, faculty and staff at approximately 12:57 p.m. notifying them of the call and encouraging them to be aware of their surroundings. At the time the text message was being written, Drury received word that two individuals in a green sedan were driving east on Bob Barker Boulevard in front of Drury's Trustee Science Center when they flashed what appeared to be a gun at a student who had been parallel parking his car. The car then turned north on Drury Lane. No shots were fired and neither individual got out the car while they were seen on campus.