Lee University student arrested after confessing to Yik Yak threat

Lee University student arrested after confessing to Yik Yak threat

Olayinka Opaso (Photo courtesy of the Times Free Press)

A student from Lee University was arrested Tuesday, Oct. 14 after posting an anonymous shooting threat towards the Tennessee university on social media.

Sophomore Olayinka Opaso, an 18-year-old Nigerian student, was charged with commission of an act of terrorism by the Cleveland Police Department after confessing to posting the threat to a senior Lee University official.

Commission of an act of terrorism is a Class A felony and is punishable by up to 25 years in prison for a first offense in the state of Tennessee.

Campus Safety Director Matt Brinkman took Opaso into custody before transporting him to the Cleveland Police Department, where he was interviewed by local investigators.

Brinkman said Lee placed heightened security on campus from both Campus Safety and the Cleveland Police Department after the threat was brought to the university's attention.

'We had police personnel present [on campus and at campus events] to ensure safety, to let students know that we were taking it seriously and to calm them,' Brinkman said.

The threat was made on Yik Yak, a mobile messaging app that allows users to post anonymous text posts called 'yaks' to other 'yakkers' within a 5-mile radius.

Brinkman said a student took a screenshot of the post and emailed it to his office on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 9. Lee administration then contacted local authorities, who in turn contacted the FBI.

'Our primary goal was to [ensure] the safety of students so we were looking into the validity of [the threat] and immediately went into investigation with the police department to see what we could find out and go from there,' Brinkman said.

Students were not notified of the threat at that time, and class schedules continued as usual.

The university was thrown into the media spotlight on Monday, Oct. 13, however, when word of the threat began circulating on Facebook amongst Lee students. Parents and students began calling the school and local authorities for more information, prompting President Paul Conn to give an official statement.

'While the post is indeed anonymous and there is no direct evidence of its credibility, we do want you to know that we are taking precautions to maintain our safe campus environment,' Conn said.

The statement was sent to students and staff via email, and was posted on Lee's website.

Conn's announcement outlined Lee's cooperation with the FBI and local law enforcement to identify the source of the anonymous threat and provided guidelines on how to respond to an active shooting on campus.

'We understand why people would feel uneasy about posts like this,' Conn said. 'It is part of the chaotic and often unsettling world we live in. However, based on all available information in consultation with authorities, we do not feel it is necessary to suspend normal activity at this time. We encourage everyone to continue to engage in the life of campus as usual.'

While administration made the decision not to cancel classes, professors did allow avenues of precaution for students.

'I've encouraged faculty to be sensitive and generous,' Vice President for Academic Affairs Deborah Murray said, advising faculty not to penalize students who chose not to attend class.

Opaso's threat surfaced only eight days after the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, and followed a shooting at Northern Arizona University that occurred the same day.

Some Lee students chose to leave campus following the threat, either traveling home, or staying in hotel rooms in town purchased for them by their parents.

Still, the majority of students remained on campus, and felt that Lee responded to the situation appropriately.

'I felt that the situation was handled in the best and most logical way that it could have been,' junior Rachel Hess said. 'Situations like this call for sound reasoning, not rash action. I think the administration took all the precautions they needed to and I did not feel that I was in danger walking to classes.'

Hess said even when it became clear that the incident was not a hoax, she did not feel unsafe, and instead trusted that God would use her for a purpose no matter what happened.

'I very much feel that we need to be logical and carefully consider threats like this when they happen,' Hess said. 'But I also believe that there's a lot of trust involved in our relationship with God as Christians. Yesterday was a day to rely very heavily on that.'

The investigation of the incident is ongoing, and Brinkman said Lee will continue to assist local authorities and the FBI throughout that process.

This article has also been shared by Charisma Magazine: http://www.charismanews.com/us/52635-lee-university-student-charged-with-commission-of-act-of-terrorism 

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