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The Blue & Gray Press | August 25, 2019

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Suspicious emails raise security concerns on campus

Suspicious emails raise security concerns on campus


Over the course of two weeks, the University of Mary Washington community received three separate alerts regarding suspicious activity around Trinkle Hall. While no threats were made against community members, students were notified under the Clery Act.

The alerts were the result of disturbing emails sent by Brian Toomey, an individual unassociated with the university. In a series of emails sent to multiple professors within the Classics, Philosophy and Religion Department, Toomey described scenes of a “disturbing nature,” according to Police Chief Michael Hall.

“There was no express threat within the emails, though the language was certainly of a disturbing nature,” said Hall. “Obviously, everyone perceives threats and language differently, and it was clear that there was a situation to be concerned about.”

Through a campus-wide email students were notified of Toomey’s physical description and were given identifying details about his vehicle and license plate, as well as a picture of Toomey.

“I don’t think there was enough [information] in the email to worry us,” said sophomore business major Francesca Dombroski. “I think the email was vague enough for me to not understand what the threat was, and not worry.”

Through the federal Clery Act, university police departments are required to notify students of potential security threats on campus. According to Hall, when notifying the community, he takes multiple factors into consideration.

“As police chief, I have to balance the information we disperse so that we don’t create a second emergency with panic,” said Hall. “It’s a fine line to walk with not wanting to disrupt the community and spread fear, while still ensuring that the community is informed and prepared.”

Following the initial suspicious emails, Campus Police officers patrolled Trinkle Hall and the surrounding areas.

“I had some friends tell me about the email,” said sophomore William Ball. “I was [worried] at first, but I came to class the day after and the security presence increased so I felt safer.”

In addition to notifying students, the UMW Police Department worked in conjunction with the Fredericksburg City Police Department to contact Toomey and his family.

“We were in contact with Toomey’s family and worked to establish contact with Toomey himself,” said Hall. After several failed attempts to meet, police were able to make contact with Toomey on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 25. That morning, the police took Toomey into custody.

“He was detained without incident, and he is being held in order to receive the proper assistance and services he needs,” said Hall.

Following Toomey’s detainment, an email went out to students informing them that the warning had passed.

“The UMW community and guests are urged to continue good crime prevention practices to include the following; be alert and aware of your surroundings while traveling on or off campus,” the email read. “Travel in well-lit areas whenever possible, on or off campus [and] do not walk alone.”