Neighbors of the suspect who was arrested Wednesday in the investigation of Monday’s gun and bomb scare on campus described him as a “nomad.”
Former USF student Markenson Innocent, 26, is a man who was not often seen outside his house, neighbors say.
University Police (UP) spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross said Wednesday evening, as police investigators served a search warrant at his house, that the possible reason Innocent made the misleading 911 call that set the USF campus on lockdown was because “it may have been a cry for help.”
“There are some things – you know I’m not a psychologist – that could be attributed to somebody who’s really trying to get some help,” she said.
Ross said investigators point to Innocent’s Facebook page. Neighbors note his “strange” behavior.
At 8:19 a.m. Wednesday, Ross said police arrested Innocent outside his home, located at 10917 N. Hyacinth Ave., and brought him to the UP station for questioning.
He then admitted to being the 911 caller who reported that an individual dressed in black was on campus with a gun and a bomb near the Library around 1:36 p.m on Monday.
Innocent, calling from an off-campus location, identified himself as “Isaiah Daniels,” but told police that “Markenson Innocent” was on campus with a gun and a bomb.
Then, he made his way to the Library, Ross said, where he stood outside with students who had been evacuated while police searched the building with guns drawn.
“We’re continuing to determine whether or not he had weapons and what his reason for being out here was,” she said.
Before, during and after Monday’s incident, Innocent was posting comments on his Facebook page that contained “details of the call that were not public
knowledge,” according to the arrest affidavit.
Nearly an hour before the 911 call, according to Facebook time stamps, Innocent posted this comment: “… about to (be) at the USF Library at 1:00 and at the Subway to have lunch with my girlfriend at 1:45 p.m. Man I hope they don’t pull one of those black man with gun or suicide bomber threats again.”
Ross said police made contact with Innocent on Monday outside the Library but did not have reason to detain him.
“This is getting a little (too) easy,” Innocent posted on his Facebook page at around 5:48 p.m. “I at least thought that they were going to (pat) me down, but they couldn’t even look me in the eye. (You) waiting for me to lose it?”
Through MoBull alert text messaging system, the final “all clear” was given for the USF campus just before 6 p.m..
Investigators worked through Tuesday night to find enough evidence to arrest him, Ross said.
Innocent was charged with false report of bomb on state property and was being held at the Orient Road Jail with a bond set at $7,500 as of Wednesday, she said.
Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, three UP investigators served a search warrant and confiscated evidence from Innocent’s home while neighbors watched from across the street. Ross would not comment on whether or not weapons were found in the search.
Innocent moved into the home about four or five years ago and initially had roommates, said Robin Chesser, who has lived across the street for 18 years. However, she said, “They moved out quickly.” Chesser said he lives alone now.
In the driveway of Innocent’s residence were two cars: a blue Dodge Intrepid with flat tires and a black GMC Denali. A statue of a lion and a bucket with cleaning supplies sat on the front porch.
‘No Trespassing’ sign posted on the tree in the front lawn read: “Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.”
“He gets erratic,” said neighbor Ronny Arana, who lives down the street. “He’s not normal.”
Chesser said about a year ago, she walked outside one morning leaving for work and saw Innocent’s house on fire.
“I’m glad they arrested him,” she said. “I’ve got grandkids in this neighborhood.”
Innocent’s previous arrests and charges include: disorderly conduct, criminal mischief of $1,000 or more and driving with a license canceled, suspended or revoked in February 2007, and possession of marijuana less than 20 grams and an open container in December 2008.
Innocent graduated from USF in May 2007 with a degree in accounting. The last time he took classes at the University was in spring 2008, said USF spokesman Michael Hoad.
Innocent’s call Monday prompted sirens from the Emergency Notification System to sound at 1:46 p.m. The first MoBull text message alert followed at 1:49 p.m. that said an “armed intruder” was on campus.
Hoad said there have been complaints from faculty regarding the confusion of both the sirens and MoBull. He said the University needs to do a better job of educating the community about what to do when there is an alert.
“In the many ways we try to alert our own population here, none of them is perfect but we try to do as many as possible,” Hoad said. “So, we do e-mails, Web sites, MoBulls and sirens.”
Some students in a Mass Communications and Society class in the Business Administration Building Room 1100 were not receiving alerts Monday, said USF assistant professor Rick Wilber.
Wilber was using the University Web site to teach over 200 students when they noticed an alert on the site around 2:09 p.m. that said an armed intruder was on campus, he said.
But 30 to 40 minutes passed before the Web site had another update, and poor cell phone reception prevented updates from MoBull. He said he didn’t have the ability to lock the classroom doors, which is easily accessible to anyone from the outside.
“That’s really not acceptable,” Wilber said.
Hoad said part of the problem with the Business Administration building is the “old architecture.” He said the University is working on fixing some doors but money is also a factor.
The class ended at 2:50 p.m., but Wilber and students stayed because the 3 p.m. class “didn’t show,” he said.
“We still didn’t know if it was safe,” Wilber said.
Students asked if they should barricade the door, but Wilber said he would have done that if he heard something that prompted him to react at that level.
Wilber said he couldn’t get reception though some students were getting MoBull alerts, and the University should have posted more timely updates on its Web site.
The situation brought back memories of a friend’s son who was shot and killed in the Virginia Tech shootings, Wilber said.
“I had that on my mind,” he said.
Hoad said he was impressed with UP’s quick response. It took just 10 minutes for a MoBull alert to be sent out after Innocent’s call. MoBull text alerts were sent to about 54,000 subscribers.
“We are all very grateful that UP responded as aggressively as they did on three cases in one day,” Hoad said.
Another suspect Vincent Thomas-Perry McCoy was arrested Monday at 2:52 p.m. after he claimed he had a bomb on the Bull Runner D bus. He was charged with false report of bomb against state-owned property and received a court-ordered charge for theft from persons 65 years of age or older.
McCoy was still being held in jail as of Wednesday night. His bond was revoked Tuesday.
Ross said she doesn’t know if there is a connection between the Innocent and McCoy incident but that the investigation is still active.
– Additional reporting by Chadd Brown and Jenna Withrow