Bomb threat forces Coffman to close early

Andrew Donohue

and Scott M. Larson

Arab Student Association members moved their peace signs outside Wednesday after a bomb threat forced the evacuation of Coffman Union.
At 9:36 a.m. Wednesday, the Minneapolis Bomb Squad received a call from an unidentified person who reported a bomb inside Coffman would detonate in 10 hours. University officials said the call was later traced to a phone outside of Coffman’s Great Hall.
At press time, Coffman was still closed and University officials had yet to enter the building to determine if a bomb had detonated. However, officials said they thought the threat was a prank.
After a 2 p.m. meeting, University officials decided to evacuate and close Coffman at 6 p.m. The meeting involved representatives from the University Police, President Mark Yudof’s office, Coffman, University Relations, the Department of Health, Safety and Transportation and the Department of Student Development and Athletics.
“We’re telling everyone there is a bomb and clearing everyone out,” said Coffman director Maggie Towle. “The administration made the decision to evacuate Coffman.”
“We are not anticipating anything,” said Jim Turman, assistant vice president for Student Development and Athletics. “But it seemed like the right thing to do as a precautionary measure.”
University Police searched the building during the day while Coffman remained open. Police officials did not find any evidence of a bomb.
The St. Paul Police bomb squad investigated with a bomb-sniffing dog, but they also came up empty-handed, Turman said.
Minneapolis police spokeswoman Penny Parrish questioned delaying the evacuation.
“If they are told a bomb is in a place and they believe it is serious, they will evacuate the building and then search,” Parrish said.
“As far as I’m concerned, it was routine,” Turman said. “It was a standard police operation.”
University Police officials did not return phone calls.
Many of Coffman’s shops closed early to help get people out of the building. Coffman officials organized the evacuation.
Many student associations were forced to cancel or relocate their activities. Vic Volare and his orchestra were forced to cancel their concert, which was scheduled for 7 p.m.
“We’ve been trying to see Vic for months, and tonight was our night,” said Charles Jensen, a senior in film studies.
Many students were concerned with the lack of precautionary measures taken by officials.
“If they took it seriously, they would clear everybody out and they didn’t,” said Nael Banat, a junior mechanical engineering major. “Nobody should be sitting right out front.”
Bondo Nyembwe, a sophomore majoring in international relations, viewed the commotion as a joke.
“This is my place, this is where I study and I’m going to sit out here all night,” he said.
Coffman is expected to reopen this morning.