The Latest: Dixie State police chief recounts details of bomb threat; continues to work with FBI

A K-9 from Intermountain Health assesses an entrance to the Testing Center at Dixie State University after a bomb threat was received on Dec. 13, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Finals week ended up being more chaotic than expected for some students at Dixie State University when they were forced to evacuate a building due to a bomb threat.

Law enforcement officials in front of the Testing Center at Dixie State University after a bomb threat was received on Dec. 13, 2018, St. George, Utah | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Campus police were notified around 11:32 a.m. Thursday that the Testing Center had received an email containing a threat to set off a bomb-like device if funds weren’t transferred through Bitcoin to an account that was linked to the email.

Blair Barfuss, chief of police at Dixie State, told St. George News it was the first threat of its kind in Washington County, so campus police responded along with the Washington County Bomb Squad and K-9 unit from Intermountain Healthcare.

A crowd of about 20 students waited in the parking lot as the K-9 unit swept the outside and inside of the building.

As part of its emergency plan, Dixie State’s students, faculty and staff also received the following alert from campus officials:

“Bomb Threat at the North Plaza Testing Center. Police and Fire are on scene. Evacuate the area and stay away.”

As soon as Barfuss read the email and knew it was a viable threat, the alert was sent out.

Students wait in the parking lot of the Testing Center at Dixie State University after evacuating due to a bomb threat on Dec. 13, 2018, St. George, Utah | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

“We believe in letting students and everyone signed up for our campus alert system know what’s going on immediately, so they can avoid or do what’s needed in an emergency situation.”

The bomb threat appeared to be part of a nationwide guerrilla email attack and the Testing Center happened to be the first to receive the email in Washington County, Barfuss said.

“The email received matched some intelligence provided by the FBI a few days earlier,” he said. “Dixie State PD contacted some other statewide agencies and was advised that there were dozens of similar emails and calls being made at the time throughout the state and the country.”

According to a report from KSL, other areas in Utah that received the threats include Park City, West Valley, South Salt Lake, South Jordan, Murray, Draper and Cache County.

A K-9 unit from Intermountain Healthcare and an officer from Dixie State University prepare to enter the Testing Center after a bomb threat was received and students were evacuated on Dec. 13, 2018, St. George, Utah | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Law enforcement officials still took precautions and had the Dixie State building swept and cleared by the K-9 unit for any suspicious packages.

Barfuss said his department is currently collecting all of the threat emails and working with the FBI to track who’s sending them and where they’re coming from.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. the building was deemed safe and students and staff were allowed back in the building.

Some students expressed concern about being in the middle of taking timed exams when they were asked to evacuate, Barfuss said, adding that he reassured them he will work with professors and the Testing Center to have the issue resolved.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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