A faculty member at Northwest Missouri State University was in jail Thursday after allegedly posting on Facebook that he might climb the campus bell tower with a high-powered rifle “with a good scope.”
It is unclear whether the remark, since removed, was intended as a joke. But neither the Nodaway County sheriff’s office nor university officials thought it was humorous.
A message emailed late Thursday afternoon to all students, faculty and staff said that the university in Maryville would not tolerate threats or incidents of violence and that the teacher had been removed from campus.
The campus newspaper had editorialized online Thursday morning that the faculty member’s posting “made our hairs raise” and asked why the university had not yet done or said anything since the message was posted last week.
The 57-year-old man is a teacher in the communications department.
The Nodaway County sheriff’s office confirmed the man was arrested at 1:15 p.m. Thursday and was in the county jail on a 24-hour hold. It was not clear whether charges would be filed.
The Northwest Missourian posted on its website what it said was a screen shot taken from Facebook last week. It reportedly was a post from the teacher to another faculty member.
“But yes, that’s the beginning of the semester,” it said. “I’m always optimistic. By October, I’ll be wanting to get up to the top of the bell tower with a high powered rifle — with a good scope, and probably a gatling gun as well.”
As the campus paper editorialized, the message evoked chilling memories of a sniper attack from atop the clock tower at the University of Texas in 1966. He killed 16 people in all.
It also recalls a shooting attack in 2007 at Virginia Tech in which 32 people were killed, as well as other school shootings from Columbine to Sandy Hook.
University Provost Douglas N. Dunham’s message to the campus said officials became aware on Wednesday of a threat of violence made on social media and that university police contacted the faculty member. The message said the teacher had been removed from campus.
“There is no immediate threat to the safety and security of individuals on campus and throughout the community,” the university statement said.
Northwest Missouri spokesman Mark Hornickel said later in an email to The Star that the university will await the results of the law enforcement investigation before taking other action.
Comments posted before this week’s developments on a professor-rating website page indicate mixed reviews of the teacher by students, with many saying he had high standards and that they learned a lot from his classes. Others complained that he could be intimidating.