Female student arrested for shooting threats on SFA campus

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With debate raging in the Texas legislature over guns on university campuses, the topic hit a little too close to home for students at Stephen F. Austin State University earlier this month when a female student posted fliers across campus and at a local apartment complex threatening a mass shooting.

After she confessed to posting the fliers, Jennifer Grant, a 20-year old student from Palestine, was arrested on April 22 and charged with making terroristic threats, which is a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

SFA police chief Marc Cossich said the more than 40 handwritten notes were found by University Police officers on Wednesday, April 16. More than 20 of the fliers were found on campus while the remainder were posted at The Grove apartment complex, which is located off campus.

“The fliers were discovered by our officers, who were just out patrolling,” Cossich said. “They were scattered throughout campus, but we noticed some were focused around the Human Services building.”

The fliers, with slightly varying words from note to note, said “students will be shot” that day and “students will die,” according to Cossich. Those posted at The Grove stated that ten students would die that day.

“Because there have been so many college shootings before, like Virginia Tech and different situations, I was scared it would actually happen,” Kathryn Holsebosch, a freshmen at SFA, said. “I was walking around campus and thinking someone could pull a gun out at any time.”

The Human Services building, which was dedicated almost five years ago to the day before the threats were posted, houses student classrooms, the Department of Human Services, Telecommunications and Networking and Disability Services.

Officers immediately took down the fliers and sent them to the state crime lab in Austin for examination. The FBI and the Texas Rangers also assisted in the investigation and examination of the evidence.

“We had a handwriting analysis done, so we knew pretty quickly that we were dealing with a female,” Cossich said.

After the officers found the fliers and removed them, UPD sent out a message containing information about the threats over its alert system as well as a mass e-mail to all faculty, staff and students. The department also vamped up security across campus and at The Grove in an effort to prevent the threats from being carried out.

“At first, I just was surprised – I really didn’t think it was real,” Franchesca Harris, a sophomore and resident of The Grove said. “[It became real] when I saw all the police all over campus. Then when I went back to my apartment that day, there were tons of police and they were having to make sure I actually lived there before I could go in. My parents were really upset and didn’t want me staying there, so one of my roommates and I went to stay at my grandmother’s house in Lufkin.”

According to Cossich, a large number of callers provided tips and gave interviews with information about the case, which helped UPD pinpoint the suspect.

“We followed a lot of leads and interviewed a lot of people. [With] every tip that came in, the officers tried to get the relationship between The Grove and the university, trying to find the connection to the specificity of the buildings,” Cossich said. “We had a good handle on who it was.”

Grant was taken in for questioning and interviewed twice before voluntarily coming to the department and confessing to the crime.

While she did not provide an exact motive, Cossich said the department is investigating what he called the “strong possibility” that the situation involved a large project that Grant had due the morning the threats were made.

With the suspect now behind bars, the students at SFA say they believed that the police department handled the situation well. With the incident fresh on their minds, however, some questioned the legitimacy of holding classes while the case was still unsolved.

“At first I thought it was a college prank, but since it was on the website I took it seriously,” Jenna Butler, a freshman at SFA, said. “They didn’t even cancel classes. The school took it seriously, but I think that classes should [have been] cancelled – it was scary.”

While he said the department can always learn from these situations, Cossich said he is pleased with the way the incident was handled and proud that the safety of the students was upheld.

“I want to thank everyone who called in their team and thank the Nacogdoches community,” Cossich said. “Everything went pretty well — the alert went out quickly so faculty, students and staff knew exactly what was going on. No one got hurt and we got the person who did it.”