WFU Police Department identifies source of suspicious package

Wake Forest University’s police department has learned who sent a suspicious package received by a Wake Forest student Feb. 12. The package set off an intensive investigation and the temporary evacuation of some campus buildings.

University police are not releasing the name of the individual while the investigation continues. The name may be announced this week.

The package appears to have been a practical joke by a family friend of the student, according to Regina Lawson, chief of Wake Forest police. University police officers are working with the U.S. Postal Inspector, the Winston-Salem Police Department and the District Attorney’s office to determine what charges may be filed. The package was initially feared to contain an explosive device, but turned out to contain nothing dangerous.

“We are relieved to know the source of this package,” Lawson said. “Although intended as a practical joke, this is a very serious matter.”

The student, a junior from Dallas, Texas, picked up the package at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 12 at the university’s post office. He took it to his room, located in the same building as the post office, and partially opened it before calling campus police. The student stopped opening the package when he noticed that it contained wires and pieces
of metal.

The call prompted the immediate closing of adjacent buildings and parking areas on campus throughout the afternoon. University and Winston-Salem law enforcement officers, including a city bomb squad, investigated the incident that was determined a few hours later to be an apparent bomb hoax.

University police now say the contents of the package were dismantled pieces of a pay telephone.

Although this particular case appears to have been the result of a practical joke, Lawson said students, faculty and staff should remain mindful of packages that look suspicious.

“If someone receives something that raises their suspicion, they should not open it,” Lawson said. “They should call university police if there is any doubt.”

Campus police also remind students, faculty and staff to always include a return address on any piece of mail. Lawson said that members of the campus community should avoid leaving anonymous gifts or packages for friends outside doors or in hallways.

Lawson said that Wake Forest officers will continue to respond promptly to calls about suspicious mail. They responded to the student in Poteat Residence Hall within two minutes of his 11:28 a.m. phone call. After determining the package to be suspicious, campus police immediately notified the Winston-Salem Police Department.

City police officers assisted in blocking off areas of campus, while the city’s bomb squad entered the residence hall to examine the package.

After X-raying the package, the bomb squad tore it apart outside the student’s room in the residence hall using a water-gun device just after 3 p.m.

“The cooperation between university police and Winston-Salem police and fire departments was vital in resolving this situation promptly and efficiently,” Lawson said. “Our university and city police officers, fire and other emergency personnel are always prepared to work together quickly and respond appropriately, as demonstrated in this incident.”

Categories: Media Advisory, University Announcement