Fresno State police chief talks about threat to campus posted online
Christian Malik Pryor, an 18-year-old Fresno State football player, was arrested Monday in connection with a social media post that said the sender planned to “release my frustrations” with gunfire on campus.
The threat, made anonymously on the messaging app Yik Yak, implied the attack would occur at 3 p.m. and sent a wave of fear across the campus as it was reposted on other social media sites. The post included a photo of the Henry Madden Library, one of the prominent features in the center of the Fresno State campus.
Fresno State announced on its Twitter account at 2:28 p.m. that a student had been arrested. It said the suspect was acting alone and that classes would be held as scheduled. In a statement, the university added that as a precaution police would beef up their campus presence.
However, auto traffic backed up in and around Fresno State as many chose to leave campus.
Fresno State Police Chief David Huerta did not name Pryor during a late-afternoon news conference. But a short time later, Pryor was booked into Fresno County Jail on a charge of making a criminal threat. Bail was set at $20,000, which Pryor posted before his release at 11:40 p.m. There was no immediate word about an initial court appearance.
About two hours after the news conference, the university identified Pryor as the student who allegedly made the threat.
Pryor was arrested in the Duncan Building in the center of Fresno State’s athletic complex south of Bulldog Stadium.
Pryor is a non-scholarship walk-on player for the Bulldogs who had yet to appear in a game.
A wide receiver, he was the team MVP of his Locke High School football team in Los Angeles last fall, according to his Fresno State football bio.
“Chris Pryor is a walk-on freshman for us this year,” Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter said following Monday’s practice. “I don’t know the results of what his conversation was with the police, and subsequent to that we’ve had a press conference here on campus while we were out here at practice. I don’t know any more details than that, since I’ve been out here.”
Players were instructed to not discuss the incident.
The post read in part (original spelling retained): “the time is here. @3PM I will release my frustrations. Tired of dirty looks, get rejected, nd being talked about bc how I dress. My choice of weapon M4 Carbine...”
A tweet at 1:12 p.m. from Pryor’s account, responding to another person’s concern, read: “it sounds like a joke but be safe.”
Huerta said investigators got the IP address of the student who sent the threat, along with additional information, and were able to link it to Pryor and track him down. Huerta said investigators got a confession.
The FBI and Fresno police also were involved in the case, and Huerta said Pryor also could face federal charges.
Huerta said he did not know why Pryor issued the threat. “These offenses are very serious,” Huerta said.
Huerta indicated that he found the incident very disturbing, “something I hoped we would never see on campus.”
Both Huerta and Fresno State Provost Lynnette Zelezny said the university became aware of the threat around noon, which meant officials had about three hours to make a series of critical decisions as to how to address it.
Susan Christensen, coordinator of facilities and event management at the Madden library, sent an “urgent” email just before 1 p.m. to the library’s listserv saying, “The recent threat on Yak is being investigated at this moment by campus emergency personnel. Dispatch has asked that we remain on alert until further notice. As soon as they have more information they will alert employees and students of the next course of action if any is necessary.”
Fresno State began posting on its Twitter account saying faculty, students and staff were notified.
At the news conference, Huerta and Zelezny said closing the campus was considered, but that was weighed against causing a panic or even a series of automobile collisions on rain-slickened streets.
Huerta said that officers were able to quickly identify and track down the suspect, making that call unnecessary. Huerta said at the afternoon news conference that police didn’t know then if the student had the weapons mentioned in the threats, but Huerta said he could reassure the community because the arrest had been made and the suspect acted alone.
“We’re telling the community that they are safe,” Huerta said.
Huerta was asked whether there is a connection between the Fresno State incident and a similar threat Monday at Arizona State University. Huerta said he was unaware of any link.
Arizona State asked students on Monday morning to be alert after university officials learned of an anonymous post on social media that vowed an attack with a gun on campus. The poster claimed to have been shunned by “normies” and that the attack would occur at 12:30 p.m. As of late Monday afternoon, no attack had occurred.
Although the Fresno State campus remained open, student Fabiola Ramirez said many students and staff left campus early.
Ramirez, who is on the staff of The Collegian student newspaper, was in front of the Madden Library. She said she was having trouble finding students to discuss the threat. She quoted one student who said he did not have time for an interview.
“ ‘I just want to get the heck out of here,’ ” he said.
Xitlaly Ocampo, a broadcast journalism student, said the threat had been widely recirculated on social media.
“Our friends sent us a group message, saying, ‘Be safe,’ and we sent it to our friends,” she said.