FBI tipped off Wilfrid Laurier University about online threat

The FBI tipped off Wilfrid Laurier University about an online threat because language used in it was similar to an online posting made before a shooting at a college campus in Oregon on Oct. 1, police in Waterloo, Ont., say.

Waterloo, Ont., police said FBI told them: 'You need to be aware of this'

Supt. Pat Dietrich with the Waterloo Regional Police Service and Wilfrid Laurier University president Max Blouw told reporters Friday morning that the FBI tipped off the school about a threat posted online. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

The FBI tipped off Wilfrid Laurier University about an online threat because language used in it was similar to an online posting made before a shooting at a college campus in Oregon on Oct. 1, according to police in Waterloo, Ont.

The threat against the university's science building led to Waterloo Regional Police and the university putting the campus on lockdown for over five hours Friday morning while working to determine the credibility of the threat.The lockdown was lifted at 11:30 a.m. ET.

"It's my understanding that information coming from the FBI was more of a heads-up in that, 'Here is a posting we are aware of, you need to be aware of this,'" Supt. Pat Dietrich of Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) told media on Friday morning.

Dietrich said that threat was posted online to the anonymous 4chan forum. An image accompanying the post was also similar to one posted on 4chan before the recent shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, where nine people were killed. 

"We're still making efforts to determine the exact location of the poster," said Dietrich. "... there's [an] indication right now that the poster is not local."

The lockdown at Wilfrid Laurier University was lifted more than five hours after a threat was made against the school over the internet. (Gary Graves/CBC)

 Dietrich said the campus lockdown was put in place because "it is always better to err on the side of safety.

"These are very complex investigations," Dietrich responded when asked if police think they will be able to find the person or persons responsible.

He said local police are working with the RCMP to identify the origin of the posting. The posting suggested students shouldn't attend the science building at the university on Friday morning. 

University operations resume

University operations have resumed, but faculty and staff are not required to attend campus, university president Max Blouw told media.

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​Dietrich said that the posting was drawn to the attention of WRPS by several sources, including the FBI.

Kevin Crowley, the university's communications director, told CBC News that the threat was noticed between 5 and 6 a.m. ET by security agencies monitoring the internet, and that Crime Stoppers had notified the campus special constables. Because it resembled similar past threats made to other campuses, around 6 a.m., the campus lockdown plan was initiated.

Campus had fewer students than usual

According to Crowley, there weren't many students on campus because it's the university's fall reading week. 

"We do have somewhere between, close to 200 students who have remained on campus in residence buildings, so they're all accounted for. We've been in touch with them personally in the buildings that they're in," said Crowley. "We've connected with them via email and Twitter, and our website and our emergency notification system. We're confident that everyone on campus is aware of the lockdown." 

Crowley said he didn't know why the threat might have been made against the science building in particular.

With files from CBC's Gary Graves