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Threat targets president of Carnegie Mellon University

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By Margaret Harding and Debra Erdley
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 9:35 p.m.
 

Carnegie Mellon University police alerted Pittsburgh police two weeks ago to watch for a man who threatened the school's president, fearing he could be en route to the city in a vehicle bearing Massachusetts plates.

The threat against Jared Cohon prompted a 24-hour police presence near his university-owned Squirrel Hill home more than a week ago. Cohon could not be reached for comment.

Carnegie Mellon police told city police on Dec. 6 that someone threatened to harm Cohon, Pittsburgh police Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said. City officers in the nearby Zone 4 station know Cohon's address on Northumberland Street in case a call comes in, Donaldson said.

Neighbors said uniformed police officers in marked university and city police cars are parked constantly in front of the estate. Donaldson said city police did not assign anyone to sit outside the home, but a Pittsburgh police car was there early Thursday.

Tammy Mayle, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Inspector, said the university is investigating and the agency's Pittsburgh office is assisting. The Postal Inspector's office deals with crimes committed through the mail.

Campus police declined to comment on the investigation and referred inquiries to university administrators.

Teresa Thomas, Carnegie Mellon assistant vice president for media relations, declined to discuss the threat or the university's response.

“We have no comment,” Thomas wrote in an email.

A review of Carnegie Mellon's police log from Oct. 30 through Dec. 20 found no mention of a threat against Cohon.

S. Daniel Carter, director of 32 National Campus Safety Index of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, said the Clery Act that mandates public reports of campus crime contains an exception to the reporting requirement if disclosing a crime would jeopardize an investigation.

The university may have met its notification requirements under the law if Cohon is the only person determined to be at risk, he said.

“One would hope the police have made a professional determination on the information available to them that everyone who is at risk has been notified. If that is the case, there would not be an obligation to warn the broader community,” Carter said.

Carnegie Mellon is a private university with its own police department. The school gets some federal grants and research money, and some students receive federal student loans.

Cohon, 65, became president of Carnegie Mellon in 1997. Two years ago, he said he would retire in 2013.

A search committee recruiting his replacement is expected to announce its recommendation early next year.

Margaret Harding and Debra Erdley are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Harding can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com. Erdley can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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