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USF police pursue 'active leads'

Published: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 01:10

University Police

ORACLE PHOTO/ALISSA BELMONT

A University Police officer surveys the Parking and Transportation area with his gun drawn as students were evacuated from Bull Runner buses Monday.

University Police (UP) now have leads in the initial 911 call that prompted a bomb and gun scare at USF on Monday.


Police know the location of the call and that it was from a third party, but investigators are still gathering details, said UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross Tuesday night.


"There's some critical information on the call that we're still investigating," Ross said. "They're definitely pursuing some active leads."


There is a possibility that the suspect arrested on Monday, USF student Vincent Thomas-Perry McCoy, 23, may not be the initially reported individual from the 911 call, which said a person was near the Library with a gun and "possibly" a bomb, Ross said.

The caller also said the individual was dressed in black. When McCoy was arrested near Parking and Transportation Services he was wearing a green-collared shirt.

"(McCoy) may or may not be related to the initial 911 call … I don't know if there are new suspects, but we are definitely following up on some leads," Ross said.


McCoy was charged on Monday with false report of a bomb against state owned property. On Tuesday, he also received a court-ordered charge of theft from persons 65 years of age or older from a prior incident.


UP arrested McCoy after someone from Parking and Transportation Services called police to report an individual was on the Bull Runner  D claiming he had a bomb, Ross said.


However, McCoy was not originally on the Bull Runner D when it pulled into Parking and Transportation Services, said USF student Lara Dickerson, who was on the bus.

After the first MoBull text message alert was sent Monday, at around 1:49 p.m., all buses were called to Parking and Transportation Services.

A services employee escorted McCoy from another Bull Runner to Bull Runner D during the lockdown because he was planning to "transfer lines" once normal activities resumed, Dickerson said.

Dickerson, a sophomore majoring in international studies, was sitting across from McCoy on the bus when he made his statement holding his backpack in his lap.


"I can't remember exactly what it was he said, but it was something like, ‘Oh no, I have the bomb — everybody watch out' or something like that," she said. "It sounded like he was joking and none of us were worried, but I mean it's a stupid joke at a time like that."


At that time, a Parking and Transportation Services employee was checking on individuals in each parked bus, Dickerson said.

"The guy who was checking up on us was like, ‘Oh don't joke about that' and he left," she said.

Dickerson said McCoy didn't "apologize" until the employee left.

"We were looking at each other like that was really dumb to say," she said.


Soon after, Dickerson and the other MoBull subscribers got another alert: "A separate report of a suspect on a Bull Runner in the Parking and Transportation Services possibly armed. Avoid area and entire campus on alert."


Dickerson said passengers on the bus thought the alleged gunman had come to Parking and Transportation Services — not thinking of the "joke" McCoy made earlier. Police swarmed the area and began evacuating the buses.

The Bull Runner D was one of the last evacuated buses. That's when armed police surrounded the it and ordered passengers to put their hands up and turn around, asking about who had said they had a bomb, Dickerson said.

"It was horrible. I've never seen anybody point guns at me and yell at me before," she said. "They were protecting me. I wasn't afraid they were going to hurt me or anything."


McCoy was taken into custody at 3:23 p.m. He told police he was kidding and didn't resist when authorities arrested him, Dickerson said.


Authorities searched the passengers' belongings and confiscated a backpack believed to be McCoy's. Laura McElroy, spokeswoman for the Tampa Police Department, said there were textbooks in the backpack.


Ross said another individual who was taken into custody Monday is not being actively investigated in the initial 911 call.

A white male wearing a black tank top and a cowboy hat was detained in front of Russell M. Cooper Hall when police received a report of someone holding a large hunting knife and a puppy, Ross said. He was questioned and later released.


As of Tuesday night, McCoy remained in jail.


"It's kind of like an airport," Ross said. "You can't joke about a bomb in an airport, you can't joke about it on a campus … A lot has changed in this world and that's just something that nobody can joke about anymore."


— Additional reporting by Chadd Brown, Kerry Klecic and Jenna Withrow.
 

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