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College locks down after threat; Details are sketchy in Atlantic Union incident.

Byline: Karen Nugent

LANCASTER - A telephone threat that shut down Atlantic Union College for about two hours yesterday morning - a day after the anniversary of the Virginia Tech campus slayings - is still under investigation.

The threat, described by Fire Chief John T. Fleck as "not specific in nature," was phoned in to the college around 9 a.m. Chief Fleck said the lockdown was a precautionary measure.

"Notifications were made throughout the campus while the initial information was being evaluated by public officials and representatives of the college," Chief Fleck said in a news release.

The lockdown was lifted around 11 a.m. and the college returned to its normal schedule, he said.

A woman who identified herself as an AUC student called the Telegram & Gazette yesterday morning during the lockdown and said the caller said someone was threatening to come and kill students.

The woman, who did not give her name, said students were scared and nervous because of the closeness to the date of the Virginia Tech killings.

A second woman who called the newspaper said students were concerned about the school's response to the threat. She said she was in class when she received a text message about the threat, and she left the campus shortly after.

Cindy Kurtzhals, AUC's director of public relations, said college President Norman L. Wendth notified students, faculty and employees about the threat via telephone messages and e-mails at 9:50 a.m. The messages said a threat had been received and all personnel and students were to stay in their buildings. Mr. Wendth said in the messages that extra security was being called to the campus and warned students not to panic because "police believe the situation is under control."

The campus grounds were empty around 10:30 a.m., and a cruiser was stationed at Main and Prescott streets, near the main building. Lancaster police, when contacted around 10 a.m., said they had not been notified about the threat.

A student at the campus yesterday said many students had left earlier after hearing about the threat. The student said he heard the threat was made by someone who had been insulted at a previous college function.

A woman there told a security guard that her mother was on the way.

"I'm just going to run to the car," the woman said.

Chief Fleck and Police Sgt. Ronald W. Knoll met with Mr. Wendth in his office around 10:30 a.m. After the meeting, a college official told Sgt. Knoll that state Sen. Robert A. Antonioni, D-Leominster, was scheduled to visit the college last evening, and extra security would be requested.

Mr. Wendth later in the day sent another message to faculty, students and employees, saying, "The police tell us they have the situation well in hand, although they request that everyone keep alert and notify them (911) if he or she notices anything that raises concern."

Mr. Wendth asked that his message be communicated to any students who did not receive earlier e-mails and voice messages.

Today, the Seventh-day Adventist college will close at noon, as it does every week for the Sabbath, which is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 18, 2008
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