Bomb Threat Empties Campus Medical Complex

    FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth speaks to the media about a Dec. 5 bomb scare that evacuated UCSD’s medical and pharmacy schools before being revealed as a hoax. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    Hundreds of staff and students were evacuated from the School of Medicine
    complex on Dec. 5 after a suspicious package was discovered in the Leichtag Biomedical Research
    Building
    . While the
    device was ultimately determined to be a hoax, questions regarding campus
    officials’ prior knowledge of the threat persist, according to a local union
    representative.

    All buildings in the School of Medicine,
    along with the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Cellular
    and Molecular Medicine East building, were evacuated after the package was
    discovered inside Leichtag at 10:26 a.m., according to FBI Special Agent
    Darrell Foxworth. At approximately 1 p.m., a campuswide e-mail from Vice
    Chancellor of Business Affairs Steven W. Relyea announced the evacuation and
    advised students and staff members to avoid the buildings.

    Employees from the FBI, San Diego Police Department, UCSD
    Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, San Diego
    Fire-Rescue Department and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol responded to the
    scene, which was then swept for other suspicious devices.

    “The Metro-Arson Task Force took the necessary steps to
    render safe the device,” Foxworth said. “It was determined that it was a hoax
    device and not an actual device.”

    After determining that the package was not an actual bomb,
    officers turned the scene over to the evidence response team at approximately
    5:15 p.m. The evacuation was contained and no one was hurt, Foxworth said.

    Skaggs research associate Wenru Yu said that she received a
    phone call from a friend at Leichtag telling her to evacuate, but continued
    working until the alarm in her building went off.

    “No one panicked,” Yu said. “We get lots of false alarms.”

    After waiting outside their buildings for several hours,
    employees were informed they would receive administrative leave for the day and
    were permitted to go home, Deputy Director of University Communications Dolores
    Davies said.

    Classes in nearby Center Hall were not canceled, though
    signs were posted warning passersby that there was a bomb scare across the
    street.

    Foxworth declined to comment on the timeline of events
    leading up to the evacuation, and said he did not know when UCSD was initially
    aware of the threat.

    However, Professional and Technical Employees Local 9
    President Carolan Buckmaster said that campus officials were informed of the
    threats as early as the evening of Dec. 4, but still had School of Medicine
    employees report to work the next morning.

    Buckmaster said that workers in the building’s vivariums —
    facilities in which animal research is performed — were told that threats were
    directed toward “the animal facility.” They were also asked to “look for any
    more suspicious objects” before they evacuated, she added.

    “The UC received a threat last night against an animal
    facility and they let employees into the building this morning,” Buckmaster
    said. “As one of the workers and a representative for the workers, we were very
    disappointed that the university let the employees into work today.”

    A timeline of the day’s events will be released when more
    details are made public, Foxworth said.

    Leichtag researcher and UCSD graduate student Minh-Ha Do,
    one of the employees evacuated from the building, said that her coworkers
    appeared to have been aware of a threat more than an hour before the device was
    discovered.

    “People knew of the threat by 9 o’clock, and the alarm went
    off between 10:30 to 11 o’clock,” Do said.

    Revelle College senior Rachel Intriago, another researcher
    at Leichtag, said the building had
    received harassing phone calls from an animal-rights group the day before the
    threat was received.

    Buckmaster said that the Animal Liberation Front, a
    prominent animal-rights activist group, contacted Leichtag the night before and
    the morning of the threat.

    “They said, ‘This is going to be huge,’” she said.

    ALF representatives could not be reached for comment as of
    press time.

    UPTE officials are planning to write a letter to Chancellor
    Marye Anne Fox detailing their grievances about how administrators handled the
    situation, Buckmaster said.

    “We’ll be writing her to tell her how unhappy we are, and
    that we don’t want this happening again,” she said.

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