Man allegedly left flares in Coffman

Jason Johnson’s first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m.

by Tyler Gieseke

University of Minnesota police arrested a man on Tuesday who allegedly left a bag of smoke flares inside Coffman Union on Sunday, which pushed police to close the building the next day.

A criminal complaint filed Wednesday accused 35-year-old Minneapolis resident Jason Robert Johnson of two felony counts involving terroristic threats and intent to damage property or cause injury with an explosive device.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in court Thursday at 1 p.m., said David Brown, chief deputy county attorney at the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. Bail is $100,000.

Johnson’s maximum sentence for the charges would be 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Officials closed Coffman Union on Monday after finding a suspicious bag on the first floor that Brown said contained smoke flares with fuses, an accelerant and a lighter. The accelerant was similar to gasoline, but the substance is still under investigation, Brown said.

Coffman Union night staff notified University police of the suspicious package around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Officers and police dogs canvassed the more than 300,000-square-foot building throughout the day Monday, and officials re-opened Coffman to the public on Tuesday.

While investigating the case, a police officer recognized Johnson in some security video footage of Coffman Union, Brown said. After distributing photos of Johnson, officers found him at a motel and arrested him on Tuesday, Brown said.

Police aren’t searching for other suspects, Brown said, but the investigation is ongoing. Officials’ next task is to determine the motive for leaving the bag in Coffman, he said.

University leaders sent a series of text alerts, email updates and Twitter messages to the public throughout the day Monday — including a public safety update emailed to University students and employees — notifying them of Coffman’s closure and the progress of the investigation.

Vice President for University Services Pamela Wheelock emailed a public safety update to the University community on Tuesday stating a suspect was in custody.

“Hats Off to the UMPD for their outstanding work in identifying and locating the suspect so quickly, and for their effective and professional police response to yesterday’s events,” the update read.