Eastern Kentucky University cancels classes; cites threat
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Eastern Kentucky University canceled classes and shifted a home football game to another campus because of an escalating threat after the discovery of graffiti that threatened to ''kill all'' this week, school officials said Wednesday.
School leaders called off classes for the rest of the week, effective midmorning Wednesday, as police tried to track down the source of threats that unsettled the campus in Richmond, Kentucky. The school later said its football game against Tennessee Tech, scheduled for Thursday night on the EKU campus, will instead be played at Georgetown College in central Kentucky.
EKU's public safety office said there was no evidence of imminent danger on campus but reported ''an escalation in the threat, originating from social media.'' Police presence around the campus has increased, the office said.
School officials did not immediately identify the nature of the social media threat. University spokeswoman Kristi Middleton declined additional comment, citing the ongoing police investigation.
The campus threats surfaced in recent days. On Monday, campus police issued a public safety alert after menacing graffiti was found in a student center bathroom on campus. The graffiti said: ''Kill All By 10/8/15.''
University President Michael Benson said Wednesday that classes were canceled to enable law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the continuing threat. He said the goal was to limit safety risks while assessing the threats.
''While we are confident the responding team of law enforcement agencies has kept a watchful eye over our community and is diligently investigating the threat, it has become clear this incident continues to be unsettling to a number of our students, faculty and staff,'' Benson said in a campus message.
Classes also were canceled on EKU's satellite campuses in the region. The school has about 16,900 students.
The action comes less than a week after a shooting at an Oregon college. The shooter killed nine people and himself.
The disruption at EKU comes during midterm exams. Full campus operations will resume next Wednesday, following the school's scheduled fall break on Monday and Tuesday, Benson said.
Benson urged students, faculty and staff to ''look out for each other'' amid the threat.
''I know a lot of people that are actually pretty terrified by this,'' said Christopher Payton, editor-in-chief of The Eastern Progress, the campus newspaper. ''I've been walking around campus and everyone is packing their bags and leaving.''
Mike Mitchell made the hourlong drive from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, to pick up his daughter, Irisbel, a freshman at EKU. He said he thought school administrators made ''the right call'' in canceling classes as the investigation continues.
''This day and time, you never know,'' he said. ''You have to take threats seriously.''
Mitchell said his 18-year-old daughter was ''ready to get away for a couple of days, just due to this situation.''
Kickoff for the Eastern Kentucky-Tennessee Tech football game is set for 7 p.m. EDT Thursday at Toyota Stadium at Georgetown College, EKU said. The game had been set for the same time and day at Roy Kidd Stadium on the EKU campus.
A women's soccer game between Eastern Kentucky and Southeast Missouri that was set for Thursday at EKU has been moved to Transylvania University's Pat Deacon Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky, EKU said. The game is set for 1 p.m. Thursday.
EKU officials also canceled a performance of the musical ''Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'' that was scheduled for Wednesday night at the school's arts center.
Campus police continue to follow up on tips and interview people as part of the investigation, EKU public safety officials said.
Authorities have been unable to substantiate a specific threat against a specific building, they said.
State and federal law enforcement agencies are also involved in the investigation, campus officials said.
The university is offering a $10,000 reward for an identification leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible.