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 firstname.lastname@example.org.