A Truman State University student was arrested Sept. 11 and will plead not guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor terroristic threat charge.
Sara Seifert, director of the Department of Public Safety, said during the early hours of Sept. 11, around 1:30 a.m., a post was made on YikYak, an “anonymous” social media platform that is becoming increasingly popular with college students. The post threatened to bomb Centennial Hall.
According to court documents, the post warned people not to come to Centennial Hall the following Tuesday.
Seifert said she received emails from Truman students concerned about the post, but no one called an officer on duty or 911 concerning the post.
Because no call to emergency services or DPS was made, it wasn’t until the next morning Seifert saw the concerned emails. Seifert said she immediately attempted to contact YikYak through their legal services. She said she was able to contact them by email and phone and worked with their tech team to get the phone number of the account that made the post.
YikYak was open to giving Seifert the phone number the post was made from, she said. Once she had the phone number, Seifert said she went through IT Services at Truman to attempt to track down the owner of the phone number YikYak had given her. Seifert said IT confirmed the number did belong to a Truman student and that it was Patrick Akins’.
Seifert said YikYak was a wonderful partner, and they immediately answered her calls and emails. They had already noticed the threat and banned Akins from the site because of the threat, Seifert said.
Seifert said the post was taken down Sept. 11.
“Once we located where [Akins] was living, we went over to Delta Chi, a fraternity, and talked with [Akins] and let him know that he was under arrest for making the terrorist threats,” Seifert said.
According to registrar records, Akins was living at the Delta Chi house at the time of his arrest.
Steven Zak, president of the Truman Delta Chi chapter, via an email statement to The Index, said the fraternity was made aware of the allegations and pending police investigation against the former member.
“As the investigation is ongoing, we will have no further comment at this time,” Zak said. “We continue to encourage complete cooperation with law enforcement during the investigative process.”
He added the chapter does not condone any behavior that contrasts their 11 basic expectations, particularly their third basic expectation that calls on members to protect the health and safety of all human beings.
Braden Leuthauser, president of the InterFraternity Council, declined to comment on the Akins case.
Seifert said during the arrest, she read Akins his Miranda Rights, and he agreed to talk to police voluntarily.
“At which time he first said he really didn’t remember making the statements. He was sure he did … and Patrick said he didn’t mean anyone any harm,” Seifert said. “He did admit to drinking alcohol at a friend’s place, which may or may not have played a part in it.”
According to court documents, at first, Akins stated he did not remember making the post. He stated he first learned of the post when a friend texted him a screenshot of the post the following morning. According to court documents, Seifert asked Akins if anyone else had his phone the night the post was made, and he said no.
Seifert said Akins was booked, processed and left on a 24-hour hold for making a terroristic threat.
According to court documents, Akins had a hearing Sept. 15. He was released on his own recognizance and promised to appear in court Oct. 13.
Students in Centennial Hall were never notified of the bomb threat through email or an emergency notification system.
“That was because of the timely arrest of the suspect, him admitting that he had done it and that he didn’t mean any harm by it. There was no ongoing threat to the University, so we didn’t feel that we really needed to alert anyone,” Seifert said.
Seifert said in hindsight, she wishes concerned individuals would have immediately called either 911 when they saw the threat or talked to a DPS or Kirksville police officer.
She said this case worked out, partially attributing it to the threat being set for next Tuesday rather than a more immediate time frame.
Seifert said if you ever see something suspicious, tell your Residence Life staff or call the police.
“You know, this is kind of one of those things that’s uncharacteristic of Truman,” Seifert said. “Truman students, most of our students are pretty academically driven and are pretty focused on their goals of graduating and getting out and making a difference in the world.”
She said even though a site says it’s “anonymous” or it feels okay to make statements or threats behind a screen, everything you do on the internet leaves a footprint.
“I don’t know of any site that’s truly anonymous,” Seifert said. “So, you know, just be mindful of what you’re doing.”
Akins’ trial is scheduled to continue Oct. 13.