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'Credible threat' prompts Southwestern College to evacuate all of its campuses

'Credible threat' prompts Southwestern College to evacuate all of its campuses
Police direct traffic away from Southwestern College on Thursday after college police were told of a “credible threat” of violence made by a student. (Alejandro Tamayo)

Southwestern College officials ordered the evacuation of its campuses Thursday after college police were told of a “credible threat” of violence made by a student.

“We are working with our college police to investigate a credible threat that we received from a student. In an abundance of caution while we investigate, the college is canceling all classes and evacuating all campuses,” Southwestern College Superintendent/President Kindred Murillo said in a statement.

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A “safety alert” posted on the college’s website said: “All classes are canceled for the remainder of the day and all campuses and departments will close. Please proceed orderly and safely off campus.”

The threat was overheard in a class Wednesday night by another student, who relayed that information to authorities early Thursday, college spokeswoman Lillian Leopold said. She didn’t elaborate on the nature of the threat other than to say it was a threat of violence.

About 20,000 students attend Southwestern College. The college’s main campus is in Chula Vista; it also has facilities in National City, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro and Coronado.

Campus police close the gate onto campus at Southwestern College and Otay Lakes roads.
Campus police close the gate onto campus at Southwestern College and Otay Lakes roads. (Alejandro Tamayo)

Leopold said the father of the Southwestern student contacted Chula Vista and Southwestern police Thursday to tell them what his daughter had overheard in class. Leopold said it was decided in a senior staff meeting that the campuses should be evacuated “in an abundance of caution.”

“Because we didn’t want to take any chances, we decided to evacuate the college and the surrounding campuses,” she said.

The spokeswoman said the evacuation went smoothly and by 10:30 a.m. was “pretty complete.”

“We had extra buses from [San Diego Metropolitan Transit System] come to help students get off campus and we had our employees and students who had driven here get off campus,” she said. “It was a safe and orderly evacuation.”

Leopold said the investigation into the threat was continuing and that Southwestern police were working with several other agencies to follow up on leads.

Some students took to social media as they waited in long lines after receiving the evacuation message on their cellphones.

Sydney Dawn Stanley, a 22-year-old journalism major at Southwestern, posted several videos on Twitter showing her behind the wheel of her car. She said it took her about 45 minutes to leave campus.

“The parking lot that I’m in is barely moving,” she said in a video posted at 9:27 a.m., about 15 minutes after the safety alert was issued. “There is no one directing traffic. People are panicked and just trying to get out.”

Kucher writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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