by Paul Bowers
Officials have evacuated part of the College of Charleston campus as the Charleston Police Department investigates a bomb threat that was called in at the Beatty Center at 5 Liberty St.
College of Charleston students received the following text message via Cougar Alert at 11:08 a.m.: "This is a Cougar Alert. A bomb has been found on CofC campus. Prepare to evacuate. Follow instructions from authorities." President Glenn McConnell later issued a correction stating that no bomb had been found.
According to CofC spokesman Mike Robertson as of 11:10 a.m., no actual bomb has been found yet, but police are investigating the threat. Liberty Street and part of George Street have been shut down.
UPDATE, 11:50 a.m.
Robertson says the threat was called in to Charleston Police Department by one person who claimed there were two bombs planted on campus. The caller said one bomb was in the Beatty Center and another was in Craig Hall.
"As a precaution, we're going through and looking," Robertson says.
According to Robertson, searching campus buildings could take a while because when students were asked to evacuate they left behind "a lot of backpacks."
College President Glenn McConnell sent an e-mail to students at 11:45:
This is an update and correction to the first Cougar Alert sent out by Public Safety. I want to inform you that no bomb has been found on campus at this time. However, we are treating this as a bomb threat.
Police are on the scene, and we ask that all faculty, staff, and students stay clear of the area between George Street and Wentworth Street and King Street and Glebe Street. Please continue to follow the instructions provide by the police and any new Cougar Alerts.
We will let you know when the issue is resolved. We appreciate your patience during this time.
A police officer on St. Philip Street said campus could be shut down for three to five hours as police search the buildings.
UPDATE, 1:25 p.m.
Police and FBI agents are still on campus. Officers have been seen carrying AR-15 rifles, putting on a bomb suit, and operating a bomb robot. No bombs have been reported found.
The College of Charleston has cancelled all classes until 5 p.m. in the following buildings: Beatty Center, J.C. Long Building, Tate Center, Thaddeus Street Education Center, Craig Hall, and the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance Building.
"These buildings are closed until further notice," President McConnell wrote in an e-mail at 1:03 p.m. "Faculty, staff, and students may reenter these buildings only after security personnel give permission to do so. We anticipate these six buildings will reopen before 5:00 p.m. If there is any delay in reopening these buildings, we will advise you via email and Cougar Alert."
Classes are being held in all other campus buildings, according to the e-mail.
The initial bomb threat was called in to Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch at 10:39 a.m. According to Robertson, Consolidated Dispatch relayed the message to a dispatcher with CofC's Department of Public Safety, who then sent out an alert via the school's Cougar Alert warning system at 11:08 a.m. "She made a mistake and put that there was a bomb when it should have been a bomb threat," Robertson says. "But the thing to keep in mind was we wanted to alert CofC to evacuate the area, and it was proven that it worked."
UPDATE, 2:55 p.m.
The Charleston County School District made the following announcement about Memminger Elementary School, which is near the CofC campus:
Due to the unresolved bomb threat at the College of Charleston, students have to be physically picked up from school today.
Signatures will be required at time of pick up. Students will ONLY be released to parents or persons listed on their emergency card. This sign-out process will begin a t2:45 p.m. in the front main hallway ONLY.
Kaleidoscope and Wings after school programs are canceled. Thank you!
UPDATE, 3:38 p.m.
Robertson says police are still searching buildings on campus, but that no bombs have been found yet.
UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.
Police spokesman Charles Francis reports via e-mail: "The Charleston Police Department has cleared the scene of the bomb threat at the College of Charleston. No bombs were found."
Robertson says all College of Charleston campus buildings and garages are now open.