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‘I Feel like It’s Going to Happen Again’: Students Evacuate Howard Plaza Towers Following Bomb Threat

Students waiting in the parking lot of Trellis House apartment at 3:59 a.m. Photo by JD Jean-Jacques. 

Howard University received its second bomb threat within 48 hours on Aug. 26 and its eighth of the calendar year. The students of Howard Plaza Towers East and West were awoken by the alarm system to evacuate their residences at around 2:40 a.m.  Students received the evacuation order through BisonSafe notifications at 2:54 a.m. 

The bomb threat was made at 2:36 a.m. to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) by an unidentified male caller. 

Over a dozen police cars and trucks pulled up on the scene as students were evacuating from the buildings. Students were ordered by the Howard University Department of Police (DPS) and MPD to move to Banneker Park and the parking lot beside Trellis House apartment building. 

Officers instruct students to evacuate towards the Trellis House apartment parking lot. Photo Courtesy of JD Jean-Jacques. 

Police cars and yellow tape closed off all roads leading to the Towers, which houses over 1,000 residents. Students crowded and waited in the parking lot and the park for about two and a half hours as they waited for police to search the building.

One student collapsed to the concrete from a seizure during the evacuation, according to some students on the scene, and was immediately attended to by two, then five MPD officers. After about 10 minutes, she was carried away on a stretcher in an ambulance. 

After searching the Plaza Towers, police found nothing, and students returned inside the buildings. DPS was made aware of the bomb threat from MPD. “We pay attention to the MPD radio scan – we listen to all of their activity. So we heard over their radio, ‘bomb threat to East and West Towers,” Director of Operations, Strategy and Communications Jarrett Carter said in an interview with The Hilltop.

Students returned to the building at around 5:30 a.m. after an “All Clear” was issued at 5:33 a.m from BisonSafe.

Jordyn Sowell, a sophomore international business major was among the hundreds of students who evacuated from the buildings. Sowell was sitting on the concrete steps next to the track in Banneker with about 60 or so other students after evacuating. 

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“I thought it was fake. I layed in bed for a really long time and I didn’t plan on getting up because I thought it was a drill. I was on the second floor – I could see a lot of things. I was watching out of my window and I realized everybody was leaving and I should leave too…I thought it was a drill, I didn’t think it was a bomb threat until I got outside,” Sowell said.

Some students thought that this bomb threat wouldn’t be the last, such as sophomore biology major Alexia Stewart. “I feel like it’s going to happen again. If it’s happening this early in the school year, there’s no way it won’t happen again,” Stewart said.

In an email sent at 4:34 a.m., the Office of Communications noted that “information suggests that investigators have leads on the location of the originating call.” The Hilltop could not confirm any identifying information about the caller. The email also stated that President Wayne A.I. Frederick was on the scene of the evacuation to observe the investigation and to “meet with personnel and students.” 

The Office of the President later sent out an email expressing appreciation and admiration of the students, while condemning the threats that occured against the dormitories.

“Finally, I want to be clear about the university’s position on the narrative of these threats. This isn’t about resilience and grit. We require extra resources from all law enforcement agencies directed towards solving this ongoing threat and bringing those who perpetrate its negative effects to full justice under the law,” Frederick stated. 

The story is developing and The Hilltop will continue to update as new information emerges. 

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Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett

[CORRECTION: This story inaccurately stated the bomb threats occurred on Aug. 24. The story has been updated to reflect the factual date of Aug. 26.]

[CORRECTION: This story previously had a typo of 2:30 a.m. when students evacuated the building. The story has been updated to reflect the factual time of 2:40 a.m. ]

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