College of Charleston releases 911 recording of bomb, shooting threat

Charleston Police Department bomb squad officers prepare to search a building on Liberty Street on Feb. 10. The officers searched several buildings on the College of Charleston after a credible bomb threat was received.

The man who called in a bomb threat at the College of Charleston last week told an emergency dispatcher he also wanted to shoot people and himself, saying he hated the place and had no friends, according to the 911 call released Wednesday.

The call was released after repeated requests from The Post and Courier under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Charleston police were called in to assist after the threat, but it was up to campus police to authorize the county to release the call. Officials initially said they were withholding the call because of the investigation but released it a day after being reminded that state law requires officials to prove how withholding a 911 call would hurt an investigation.

The call helps explain why police showed up on campus with rifles about 10:45 a.m. Feb. 10. The first indication from the college that they also were responding to the threat of an active shooter was when campus police released an incident report Friday.

The caller identifies himself as Zach under questioning from the dispatch operator. A certain accent can be detected, such as pronouncing “about” like “aboat” and “out” like “oat.” He sounds significantly stressed and on edge, possibly a factor that led officials at the time to say they were responding to “a credible threat.”

“I have a bomb at the College of Charleston,” the caller tells the operator twice.

When she asks where, he tells her the Beatty Center, spelling it out correctly when she asks him and pronouncing it like “beety.”

“I’m thinking about going there right now and just shooting everyone. I (expletive) hate this place,” he says. “Right now I just want to (expletive) hold this gun to my head and shoot myself.”

He says he has placed the bombs on a timer and they will explode in five hours. He refuses to give more details about the bombs.

He threatens to go there and start shooting people several times. When asked why, he says it’s because nobody ever acknowledged him and he doesn’t have any friends.

“Get everybody out of the Beatty Center,” he says. “I don’t want to hurt them, but I will. If you don’t evacuate it, I will hurt them.”

The call ends after he says, “I want to shoot someone right now, and then I want to shoot myself.”

The county confirmed the caller hung up right at the end of the recording.

The call brought out scores of police to close off streets in the heart of campus while the bomb squad searched the Beatty Center and several other nearby buildings. No bomb was found, and the area reopened about 4:30 p.m.

The first alert from the college said a bomb had been found on campus. Another message was sent out a few minutes later saying a bomb had not been found but a bomb threat was received.

Officials never told students that the caller had also threatened to shoot people. They said they withheld that information to avoid panic.

In the immediate wake of the incident, many students complained about the college’s communications.

“I live right across from where they ‘found’ the threat,” said junior Catie Cloutier. “My house’s windows look into the windows of that building. The men and women with semi-automatic guns standing outside of my house told me something was wrong before my school did. The news told me more than my school still has. Students deserve answers.”

The Student Government Association passed a resolution later that day noting the “near-ubiquitous confusion surrounding the bomb threat” and called on officials to improve the communication system.

Officials blamed the mistake on a glitch in the Cougar Alert system and said it’s been corrected.

Campus police did not release any information on the investigation to find the caller Wednesday.

There was some public speculation that the bomb threat may have been a diversion for a bank robbery in West Ashley the same morning, sending scores of Charleston police to the college. Investigators have considered the possibility that the two incidents might be linked but have found no evidence to confirm that theory, Deputy Chief Tony Elder said Wednesday.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.