09/26/2007

Classes at Wisconsin college resume as police search for suicidal gunman

By Ryan J. Foley
The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — University students returned to class Wednesday as police searched for a 19-year-old man they initially said was trying to provoke a shootout with authorities.

Tuesday night, the University of Wisconsin-Madison canceled classes and police urged students to stay inside after the Dane County Crisis Center received a call about a suicidal person atop the university hospital's parking ramp.

As officers Clawent to the hospital, authorities learned that the suicidal person claimed to have a gun and intended to be killed by police. Two later calls, claiming shots had been fired and a bomb threat had been made, were hoaxes by the apparently suicidal man, identified as Jesse Miller, said Assistant UW-Madison Police Chief Dale Burke.

"This gentleman indicated that he wanted to be killed by the police," Burke said. "It looks like one of those cases where somebody is trying to create a scenario for that to happen."

University of Wisconsin Police Sgt. Jason Whitney said Wednesday that officials no longer believed the young man was armed or even on campus.

UW spokesman John Lucas said heightened security measures would still be in effect at the west end of campus but declined to be more specific.

"This has been an unusual and troubling situation, but we have confidence that UW Police and other police agencies are handling this situation well," Provost Pat Farrell said.

Miller, of Madison, has a history of mental illness and had been serving a work-release jail term for armed robbery but stopped reporting this month, Burke said.

Elise Schaffer, spokeswoman for the Dane County Sheriff's Office, said a detective had been searching for Miller. Inmates often fail to report back to jail but usually turn themselves in within a day or two, she said.

The university sent three mass e-mails to students about the search late Tuesday afternoon, Burke said, though some students said they hadn't heard about it by evening. The school also posted updates in an advertisement on Facebook, the popular online social networking site, Lucas said.

Greg Grube, a senior, said Tuesday night as he walked home on the west end of campus that his flag football game had been canceled for unspecified security concerns.

"They just said security. I thought that meant the fields were too wet," he said. "Wow, geez, I wish I would have known that. I would have been a little more careful."

It was at least the second security concern on campus in a week. Last week, police arrested a 52-year-old man who had been banned from campus by a judge for harassing female students.

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