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Police ID suspect for threatening videos

A student is accused of posting a series of videos alluding to a threat against Temple. Last week, Campus Safety Services received multiple emails from concerned students, parents and faculty after a series of videos seeming  to threaten the Temple community surfaced online. After an investigation, police located a student suspected of creating the videos…. Read more »

A student is accused of posting a series of videos alluding to a threat against Temple.

Last week, Campus Safety Services received multiple emails from concerned students, parents and faculty after a series of videos seeming  to threaten the Temple community surfaced online. After an investigation, police located a student suspected of creating the videos.

CSS first received an anonymous email just after midnight on Feb. 21. As the morning continued, emails continued to fill the CSS inbox.

An investigation began when Charles Leone, deputy director of CSS, arrived at work and was made aware of the video, posted Feb. 16, which was the last in a series of three threatening videos posted through the same YouTube account.

The last video, however, was more overt than the previous two, Leone said.

The video reportedly showed a person putting down a red Temple drawstring bag with ‘Free’ written on it with black marker, near the Bell Tower. It then displayed a rectangular cardboard box inside the bag and written on it was the date ‘4/10/12.’ The video ended with the screen going black, to sounds of an explosion.

“We thought that since it was posted that day, it was done that day,” Leone said. “We looked at our cameras and were able to see a bird’s eye view of the Bell Tower and we see the person come over and set up the box and bag and making the video [at 6:36 a.m.]. Then we used the rest of our cameras from around campus to follow the person.”

CSS officers last saw the suspect around Cecil B. Moore Avenue and between Broad and 15th streets. Then, using the low-level shots from the campus-wide camera system, detectives started canvassing the area in an attempt to find someone who recognized the man in their video footage.

When a worker in the Edge said they believed they knew the person, detectives were led upstairs to the room of Darwin Paz, a sophomore communications major.

Temple Police knocked on his door and asked him to step outside for questioning while a dog sniffed his room for explosives.

After their search proved fruitless, the officers escorted Paz to CSS headquarters at 12th and Montgomery streets. Once inside, detectives showed Paz the photograph of a man, and asked if he knew, or was, that individual.

That man, Paz said, was his doppelganger.

“I was blown away,” Paz said. “This person looked exactly like me. His facial construct was exactly like mine, his hair was the same as mine, but it wasn’t until I saw his clothing that I realized, ‘OK, this guy’s definitely not me.’”

The images used on the flyers had a “pretty good facial, but not great,” Leone said.

“It gets tough sometimes,” Leone added. “You don’t want to get the wrong guy, that’s for sure.”

But before this interview, Paz was shown the three videos, all of which were meticulously edited and designed to threaten, Paz said.

Detectives cleared Paz from suspicion that day after questioning.

“I felt [the videos were] trying to convey a message of…destruction, of violence, due to [their] very disturbing nature and eerie feel, which was all purposely done,” Paz said. “This individual took a lot of time to make sure [they were] edited really well, and [they] sent the message [they were] meant to send.”

The first video, “Magnificent Temple,” was posted in the fall. After it was brought to the attention of CSS, they reviewed it and did not see any direct threat posed.

“We tried to find out who submitted it, but we didn’t get anywhere with that one,” Leone said.

The morning of Feb. 22 brought new information to Temple Police.

In a similar series of events, a maintenance worker at the Edge saw a flyer of the man in the video and called CSS and told them he believed he could identify the suspect.

That day, the 21-year-old male student suspected of creating the videos was located at the Edge, where police found the bag, box and all other materials used to make the video.

Temple Police brought in bomb-sniffing dogs to ensure there were no explosives present and that the room was safe, Leone said.

Temple Police then compiled all the information with Philadelphia Police Central Detectives, even working with Homeland Security, which was notified by someone in the Temple community, and submitted the package to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Charging Unit.

“That’s what we’re waiting on now for the criminal end of things,” Leone said. “We’ve also submitted everything to the Student Code of Conduct, so we’re waiting on that.”

CSS officers also asked the suspect to remove the videos from YouTube, which was done as of Feb. 22.

At this point, the suspect’s charges are unknown.

The District Attorney now has to weigh out whether this was a threat or would have been, Leone said.

“If the District Attorney decides to charge, then there will be a warrant. If they decline, it will end the current investigation,” Leone said. “As far as Student Code of Conduct, there will be a hearing pretty quickly and depending on what they decide, we will see what happens from there.”

Becky Kerner and Payne Schroeder can be reached at news@temple-news.com.

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    20 comments on “Police ID suspect for threatening videos

    1. TU Parent on said:

      Thank you for sharing this information. Its good to know the extent that this was reported and investigated. However, we would clearly like to know the end result, so please publish information as it becomes available. Do we have information if this person is still in custody, or when if they will be charged? There must be some type of consequence for something like this. Even as a “joke” or a cry for attention, this is a serious matter. Having experienced a school shooting in my community, and with the events that unfolded today in Ohio, a strong message needs to be sent.

    2. TU Student on said:

      Thank you! This is finally the news many of us have been waiting to hear. This was needed, especially after hearing about the tragedy that happened in Ohio.

    3. Carole on said:

      This does nothing for anyone. Was he working alone? What was the date about? Anyone who makes bomb exploding sounds after showing what appears to be a bomb, needs to be taken seriously!!

    4. Edgar on said:

      Did you people even watch the videos? They’re just creepy and the last one gave a date. What a witch hunt. You can’t call “school shooting” or “bomb” every time you see grainy video with weird sound effects. Then these authors spend most of the article doing nothing but describing the plight of a student falsely suspected of making the videos because he looked like the person who did. This shouldn’t have even been posted.

    5. TU Parent on said:

      I do agree with one point, that this article focuses a little too much on the student falsely accused. I would prefer to hear more about the actual suspect and what they have discovered. I assume because of pending charges there is caution for how much can be shared. But I do want to know more. And yes I did watch all 3 videos multiple times. This was more than a video with creepy sound effects. The “creepy noises” when played backwards did make violent threats, the grainy video did have hidden images implying death. The last one with a given date, was intended to instill fear. SO no, this is not just a witch hunt. You can’t make terroristic threats and have no consequences. Go back and research most school shootings, one common theme is that some clues and threats were shared but people didnt take them seriously. As a parent, I would prefer to know that a threat like this is taken seriously and investigated.

    6. Edgar on said:

      The real suspect has already stated that he is an advertising student and that this was a project. Anything can be looked back upon and called a clue after the fact, that doesn’t mean it would have been reasonable to see it as evidence of a potential school shooting before it actually happened. Give me one example of a violent threat made in the video. All of the things in the video are protected by the first amendment. I’ve seen commercials for movies that could be more easily confused with terrorist propaganda. This IS a witch hunt by the over zealous and if this student gets even a blemish on his disciplinary or criminal records it would be worse than the videos themselves.

    7. Edgar on said:

      I’m sure all they would have had to do is say they were the police and message him to meet with them, and he would have explained the whole situation without all of this undue concern and bad journalism.

    8. CommStudent on said:

      TU Parent and TU Student are clearly university officials trying to swing this situation in their favor. Notice how they both mention shootings in Ohio; an incident that doesn’t connect to this at all. In fact, these videos were online for months and the video in question was online two weeks prior to what happened in Ohio. If the university was concerned, why didn’t they simply question the student after the first video surfaced? They could have easily traced the IP address and cleared up this matter. Why didn’t they try to do the same after the second video appeared online? Since, as noted above, this was an advertising project, why didn’t the university go to the School of Communications and Theater to check if it was? If you ask me, the only one at fault here is Temple University itself.

      Take a look at this article. Notice how it’s using a journalism technique called “framing” to make it seem like the university is doing their job. They act like they had no idea about the videos up until February 22nd. What we have here is exploitation of a situation to make it the university show itself as responsible and safe. Also, the student they interviewed should really sue Temple University for defamation of character, due to the fact they poorly positioned the article in the physical edition.

    9. JRNStudent on said:

      The university definitely knew about these videos a while back. A friend of mine actually reported one of them to campus police a month ago after seeing it come up on his Facebook page. When I asked some employees what Temple should do to control the situation, they completely brushed off the videos and let the matter dissipate until students and parents saw them, leading them to take matters into their own hands. Whether its a prank, a project, or a real-life threatening piece of material, it should not take students and parents to push the university to do something… Especially if campus police had prior knowledge of this material to begin with.

      I know nowadays, we can become overly sensitive and fearful of what’s out there. But when you’re dealing with a community of tens of thousands of students and faculty, you can never be too careful.

    10. TU Parent on said:

      I can assure you I am NOT a university official! I am a concerned parent. My concern is that Temple will bury this and not share info. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that Temple covers up anything that could make the news. This is out there and causes concern and fear. Unless the information and resolution is clearly shared, there will be continued rumors,conjecture, and fear. It will get out of control, which is what “threats”, even if implied, are intended to do. So maybe you think its not a big deal because it was just a creepy advertising project. You may be right. But others who have seen this have no idea of the real intent or the person who did it. And what was the REAL intent if this is just a harmless project? Why is the blame being turned on the university or students and parents? The person who did this is accountable for doing something really stupid!! We support the first amendment and free speech, but in the public forum you need to expect scrutiny because you can’t make threats. In the times we live in, everything needs to be taken seriously, like it or not. I have experienced a school shooting, and the main followup is to report anything suspicious. Unless more info is shared, I’m sure attendance will be very low on April 10.

    11. CommStudent on said:

      I’m mistaken. TU Parent isn’t a university official. But lets look at what they wrote. That terminology is very direct, almost as if it’s someone who had inside knowledge of the situation. Sounds to me like this article is being monitored by the Campus Police.

    12. TU Parent on said:

      Comm Student, seriously grow up. Enough with the conspiracy theories. I have very direct terminology because I am parent who expects accountability and reassurance that students are safe and that this situation has been taken care of properly. Why would I be asking for more information if I was Campus Police? Seems to me you are more interested in protecting the guilty party….. hmmmm
      or you are just a Troll

    13. JRNStudent on said:

      100% Temple police DID know about these videos prior. I know this for a fact.

    14. JRNStudent on said:

      And nothing was done…. until all of the sudden more people found out about them.

    15. curious on said:

      Well I believe the temple police knew about them. Not sure if they were doing anything or not. I suspect tracking this person may have been tough. If they could hack into the Temple Webcam and maybe into the Comm dept, you would think they are smart enough to cover the tracks of their IP addresses. But who knows. Each video got more bizarre,
      I think the 3rd video was the one that took this beyond creepy and got so much attention. Either way Temple needs to make a statement.

    16. Hello Everyone,
      I am a BTMM student producing a radio series called ‘Upfront’ for a senior project. My latest edition is about school violence and security at TU. This bomb threat is a very serious matter and I am seeking more information about to include in the segment. Would anyone be available to do a quick interview on Temple’s campus in the next few days about this topic? I would greatly appreciate it.
      Please get in touch with me at t u c 7 2 4 1 2 at temple dot edu.
      thank you so much!

    17. Edgar on said:

      Even if this were a real threat, it could have been cleared up silently months ago. I guarantee most students and faculty still don’t even know about the existence of these videos. In fact this TTN article is probably the most fear-mongering creation that’s come out of this situation. As Commstudent said, they could have gone through the school or the IP address to find out that this was not a threat months ago, and the student could have finished their harmless project without a this article having ever been created and without bunch of knee-jerkers messing it up. At worst, even if the videos started to gain serious traction, the police would have been able to release a statement saying something like, “We checked, it’s not a serious threat,” and kept over-zealous parents and these journalists from going on this witch hunt and ruining this student’s project, as well as compromising their ability to learn at school.

    18. Edgar on said:

      This was not a bomb threat. It takes someone seriously paranoid to make that absurd interpretation from a bunch of vague video that were, at worst, creepy, and made no mention of a bomb or any kind of violence. Creepy still isn’t a crime, or a violation of Temple’s code of conduct.

    19. curious on said:

      As expected still no more info on this situation. Anyone seem a statement by the University?

    20. Thomas Garrity on said:

      Dear CommStudent, The Temple News works independently from the university, therefor it was not a PR piece for them. Check out The Temple Times if you’re into that positive publicity.

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