Kent State Student’s Actions Help Prevent Potential Violent Act at Pennsylvania School
Take the Internet seriously. As crazy as that sounds, if a threat is made and feels real, report it. That’s the advice Kent State University student Zoë Burch offers as she reflects on her experience.
While in her first year at Kent State, Burch, a Pittsburgh native, was online and noted a potential threat of violence directed at a school in Pennsylvania. She reported the information to Kent State Police, which led to the involvement of the FBI in Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania authorities. The threat was confirmed with authorities in Pennsylvania, and the suspect was arrested.
“I contacted police after finding the message online because there wasn’t any other option,” Burch said. “Seeing something of that nature requires you to speak up. Any chance of being able to help out is a chance to make a difference.”
And make a difference is exactly what she did, according to the local, state and federal authorities who honored her July 22 on the Kent State campus. Joining Burch and her family at the recognition event were representatives from the university’s administration and police department, Ohio Homeland Security, Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI.
“Zoë did exactly what we advise our students and employees to do when they witness or come across questionable activities, and that is she contacted authorities,” said John Peach, chief of police and director of public safety at Kent State. “A simple act, such as a phone call to the police, can help prevent a potential act of violence. We encourage all members of our community to speak out when they see or hear something suspicious.”
Richard Baron, director of Ohio Homeland Security, echoed the importance of the public serving as “eyes and ears” to report suspicious or questionable activity.
“An engaged and aware public is critical in maintaining the safety and security of all of us,” Baron said. “By reaching out to law enforcement, Ms. Burch did what we encourage every citizen to do when they hear or see something suspicious: If You See Something, Say Something.”
Burch said this incident has had an impact on her life.
“Honestly, the day that Lt. [Joseph] Hendry [of the Kent State Police Department] called to let me know that reporting the threat may have saved people’s lives was one of the most rewarding days I could imagine,” she said. “My family is so proud of me. I have the most supportive group of people you could imagine, and this, along with anything else I accomplish, shows them how well they’ve done in being there for me and teaching me to do what is right.”
Ohio Homeland Security has been reminding the public to be aware and report suspicious activity with its “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. People can report suspicious activity by calling 1-877-OHS-INTEL (1-877-647-4683) or in case of an emergency, call 911.
Members of the Kent State community also can call the Kent State Police Department at 330-672-3070 or use the anonymous university tip line – ThreatLine – where users can either choose to leave an anonymous voice mail message or fill out an anonymous email form. ThreatLine should be used only in nonemergency situations.
For more information about Ohio Homeland Security, visit http://homelandsecurity.ohio.gov.
For more information about Kent State’s Police Services, visit www.kent.edu/police.