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Hamilton College student in custody for making a threat of mass harm

Hamilton College

A suspect is in custody for threatening to "shoot up" a building at Hamilton College.

New York State Police said Peter A. Howard III, age 20 from Louisville, KY was taken into custody. Howard is a Hamilton College student and is charged with making a threat of mass harm, a class “B” misdemeanor.

"No weapons were located in the student's room or any of the adjacent areas in which he resides," Director of Campus Safety Frank Coots said. "The student status is on an interim suspension and that will be handled through our student disciplinary process."

On Sunday, Hamilton College went into a shelter-in-place at 5:55 p.m. after a post was made on "Jodel" regarding a potential active shooter threat for a campus building.

Coots said he does not believe Sunday's incident was related to swatting.

"It was a very specific complaint that we received last night, a very specific location of where it could where it was supposed to occur," Coots said. "Swatting tends to be more general in nature. 'It's going to happen on the campus of ABC school' or 'It's going to happen in a building that houses classrooms.' This was very specific to Hamilton College and also the social media platform 'Jodel' tends to be used often on our campus."

"A social media post threatened to "shoot up" Kirner Johnson," Hamilton College said on its Twitter. "Multiple law enforcement agencies are actively searching Kirner Johnson and surrounding buildings. No active shooter has been observed. Everyone on campus should continue to shelter in place."

Law enforcement including the FBI, Kirkland Police Department, Oneida County Sheriff's Office and Hamilton College Security searched several campus buildings and said they determined there was no active threat to students or staff. An all-clear message was sent to campus at 9:23 p.m.

Hamilton College said it is conducting a review of its actions and communications surrounding Sunday's incident.

"Overall, our response protocols worked as intended, but we regret that our initial messages indicated the presence of "an armed assailant" rather than the threat of an armed assailant," Hamilton College said in a statement. "We are sorry for any additional stress this may have caused."

The New York State Police say they issued Howard an appearance ticket and he is scheduled to appear in the town of Kirkland Court on May 2, 2023, at 6:30 p.m.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.