Time was of the essence when Western’s Campus Community Police Service (CCPS), in partnership with the London Police Service (LPS), acted Monday in thwarting a threat of gun violence on campus, said CCPS Director John Carson.
As a result, Jiwhan Choi, a 22-year-old Western student, was arrested shortly after his remarks of bringing a firearm to campus were identified on social media.
Choi appeared in court Tuesday morning on charges of uttering threats to cause death. He was released on his own recognizance on a $1,500 no-deposit bail under the conditions he not attend Western; not possess weapons as per Criminal Code; not contact or communicate with the complainant; and notify London Police if he changed his address.
Choi’s next court date is Oct. 17.
Early Monday, campus police spoke with a female student after she contacted CCPS with a concern over comments she saw on USecrets Western, a public Facebook page to which users can submit messages that are posted anonymously, Carson said.
“We got her out to our office yesterday morning (Monday) and she was able to show us screen shots of a number of texts posted to USecrets, and those particular texts included (a student) threatening to come to campus with a firearm, and shooting at Western,” Carson explained.
The posts did not indicate a specific target, he added, though the contents of the posts implied the threat was meant for Monday.
CCPS were able to identify the individual who wrote the posts; they knew it was a male student at Western who he lived off campus, Carson noted. Campus police contacted LPS and officers acted quickly, confirming the student was not on campus Monday morning. London police went to the student’s apartment and he was arrested by 11 a.m. Monday.
The student was arrested and charged with uttering threats to cause death, contrary to section 264.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada.
“At no time was anyone here at the university at risk. The individual did not have any firearms, and there was no means for the individual to carry this out. But whether this individual was capable or not capable of carrying this out, as soon as he said that, we treated that very seriously,” Carson said.
“We took the appropriate steps and acted quickly. It’s a stark reminder that we’re in North America; these kinds of things are done and whether it’s carried out, or it’s a hoax, it doesn’t matter. It’s still unsettling.”
Soon after speaking with the female student who brought attention to the online threats, campus police officers waited for the male student at his morning class – to which he did not show up, Carson explained.
“The first priority yesterday was to identify where he is. We were present at his first class to ensure he wasn’t on campus. We were ready to intercept, should he come to campus. But we were almost simultaneously able to identify he was at his apartment, where he was arrested,” he added.
“If we had reason to believe someone was coming to campus with a firearm, we would have gone on the defensive. If we had a reason to believe campus was at risk, there would have been broad notifications immediately.”
The Western community is fortunate its community members are vigilant and CCPS is thankful for the female student who came forward after she identified the threats on social media, Carson explained. Many people likely saw the post, he noted, yet she was the only one who contacted police. All members of the campus community need to be vigilant, he said.
“What this university can do is be a good steward of safety. The university is made of 40,000 students, staff and faculty and those are the eyes and ears of safety. When they see something that doesn’t look right, that makes them nervous, it’s important they come to us and identify it so we can look into it.”
In a statement issued Monday, Western officials said the university “is cooperating with the investigation led by London Police Service. These situations are upsetting. If community members are in need of assistance, they can contact and access health services on campus.”
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The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to call the London Police Service at (519) 661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Information can also be sent in on-line anonymously to www.londoncrimestoppers.com.