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Police stand-off with student shuts down Mo. campus

The Associated Press

The University of Missouri-Rolla is shown Tuesday. A UMO-Rolla graduate student claiming to possess anthrax and a bomb threw this south-central Missouri community into a panic Tuesday, but police suspect it was nothing more than an empty threat. (AP Photo/Dan Gill)

Rolla, Mo. -- Nearly two dozen people were being decontaminated Tuesday after a white, powdery substance was found on a student who claimed to have a bomb and threatened "terrorist-type" actions at the University of Missouri-Rolla, officials said.

The man, described as a graduate student depressed about his grades, also claimed to have anthrax, according to police. School officials said "possible bomb materials" were found when he was taken into custody.

Twenty-three people were sent through a decontamination process Tuesday morning outside the university's civil engineering building, where a police standoff with the student had started around 2:30 a.m.

Acting Police Chief Mark Kearse said that when police arrived the student was holding a knife and that he held up a bag and said: "This is a bomb." He also claimed to have anthrax.

Police used a stun gun to subdue him and found a note in which the student threatened to destroy the building, Kearse said.

The man's identity and nationality were not released, though school spokesman Lance Feyh said he was an international student.

Mayor William Jenks and Kearse said the student had been distraught over his grades, which may have led to the incident. Jenks said the student "had problems and was depressed."

The 5,850-student technological research and engineering campus in south-central Missouri was shut down during the incident and classes were canceled for the day while officers investigated. The Fort Leonard Wood Explosive Operations Division was investigating the possibility that a bomb may be in the building.

"We have no hard evidence that there's anything wrong in the building but we simply can't take a chance," Jenks said. "We're taking a very cautious approach."

Those exposed to the powder included a faculty member in whose lab the graduate student was found and eight students working nearby, said campus spokeswoman Mary Helen Stoltz. The remaining people exposed to the powder were emergency personnel who responded to the scene, she said. It wasn't yet clear what the substance was.

Stoltz reiterated Kearse's belief that the student was "using the threat of terror to get attention."

"We believe the situation is completely under control," she said. "For now everybody's safe."


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