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Update: Police finish sweep of Urbana schools after closure

Urbana Middle School file picture

URBANA – Updated Monday, Nov. 7 at 4:50 PM: Police finished their sweep of Urbana High School and Urbana Middle School after the schools received gun and bomb threats on Monday morning. According to Urbana Criminal Investigations Division Commander Mike Cervantes, police did not find anything suspicious on school premises.

Cervantes expects schools to reopen on Wednesday after Tuesday’s Election Day holiday, based on his conversations with Urbana District 116 Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum. 

“The big takeaway is that all the kids were safe. The school districts, the police departments all acted quickly,” Cervantes says.

Cervantes says around that around 7 a.m. multiple anonymous callers threatened to shoot students at Urbana High School and bring bombs. The middle school received a similar call.

The district decided to cancel classes and sent students who were already on buses back home.

Eleventh grader Jose was on one of those buses. He boarded his school bus to Urbana High School at 6:40 a.m. — about 20 minutes before the anonymous threats against his school began. 

Jose says everything seemed normal until the bus stopped and the driver got a call about the threat. Jose had heard about school shootings but never experienced a threat before.

“For me, it was the very first time, so I was scared,” Jose says. “If there’s a shooter, they could just start firing and killing people, just shooting randomly like crazy.”

Jose’s bus driver headed to the reunification point. After a few minutes, other students and staff began to arrive. Jose was asked to board a second bus and at 8:20 was finally cleared to go home. 

Other school districts in the area received threats over the weekend. 

Georgetown Ridge Farm CUSD4 in Vermilion County canceled classes on Monday after receiving threats against students at Georgetown Ridge Farm High School. The Georgetown Police Department has investigated and says the threat was created by a juvenile who lives in another state. 

The Champaign Unit 4 also heard rumors of social media threats from students and families. While the district did keep schools open, Unit 4 Chief Communications Officer Stacey Moore says the district treats potential threats seriously and involves law enforcement. 

Cervantes says the Urbana Police Department has been in contact with the police handling threats in other jurisdictions and is still gathering information on whether the situations are connected. So far, those responsible for other threats do not seem to be the ones responsible for the threats against Urbana schools. 

Updated Monday, Nov. 7 at 11 AM: In a statement, Urbana Police Lt. Mike Cervantes said its department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and the Illinois Secretary of State Police are investigating the incident. He said a ‘terroristic threat’ came from a number of callers to Urbana High School’s offices.

“The caller mentioned that he was going to kill students by shooting them at the high school. He also mentioned pipe bombs. Urbana Police Officers responded to the scene to make contact with school officials. Throughout the next hour, several additional calls were made by an unknown male and female caller from different numbers, with similar terroristic threats,” said Cervantes in the statement.

Police also said a message with similar threats was left on the voicemail of the middle school.

At 9:15 AM Urbana School District #116 Superintendent Dr. Ivory-Tatum sent families this update:

Dear UMS Families, 

Thank you for your quick response and cooperation this morning.  UMS is closed today out of an abundance of caution due to threats made to Urbana High School.  All UHS students and staff are safe and off campus.  The high school is closed for the day while officers search the building to rule out any actual or potential threats.  UMS will also remain closed for the day. 

This morning before school started, we received multiple phone calls detailing a possible school shooting and bomb threats.  UHS was immediately put on lockdown, and students, staff, and buses en route were redirected to our reunification site.  Due to the timing of the threats, we were able to quickly close UMS and divert students and staff from the secondary campus area. 

As always, safety is our main priority!  We appreciate your understanding and flexibility around the timing of these events and our decision to close UMS today. 

 

Ricardo Díaz helped with translation for this story.

This is a developing story. Look for updates here and on WILL-AM 580 and FM 90.9.

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