A man who was recently fired from the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life at the University of Washington was arrested by Seattle police for threatening to blow up the center, according to authorities. However, the threat was not believed to be a result of anti-Semitism.
At approximately 2 p.m. the suspect who had been recently fired from his job at the center returned and threatened to blow it up. At the time it was believed that between 10 and 30 students and staff members were in the building according to Rabbi Oren Hayon, Hillel center executive director. After repeated questions regarding the motivation for the threat Hayon stated that “we’re not concerned about any anti-Semitic overtones to the threat.”
Seattle police indicated that the man they arrested for threatening to blow up the center and went down to the basement after threatening staff. An employee who heard the threats rushed upstairs to call police and alert other people in the building. While one employee was on the phone with authorities Rabbi Hayon cleared students out of the building. Other employees checked office spaces and the center was empty within a few minutes with first responders on the way.
After the man made the threats he began mixing chemicals in the basement of the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Life. According to the Seattle Police Department website they closed off streets around the center in case the man “mixed chemicals found in the building to create a toxic gas.”
When authorities arrived a hazardous materials team used a chemical-sniffing robot to safely investigate the scene. At approximately 3 p.m. the SWAT team found and arrested the suspect who was still in the basement. According to some reports when firefighters and officers arrived they saw that he had been affected by fumes. Police eventually convinced the man to get hosed off by firefighters. He was then taken to Harborview Medical Center to undergo an evaluation and was treated for inhalation of the toxic fumes. No other injuries were reported to have resulted from exposure to the fumes.
According to police the man, who was a former maintenance worker, got ammonia and bleach from a supply closet, mixed them together and inhaled the fumes. Employees in the building warned police that the suspect may also be armed with a knife.
It seems as though the motivation for the threat was the man’s recent job loss. Some details remain unclear as comments by authorities have been restricted due to the ongoing investigation. However, it was reported that the man had a history of suicidal attempts.
The suspect had also threatened center employees and his former bosses. Everyone known to be present in the building was successfully evacuated and without injury.
The center which is located a few blocks off of the University of Washington campus and the surrounding streets were blocked off to ensure that no bombs or other threats remained in the building. The HazMat team ventilated the building to clear any remaining fumes.
The man Seattle police arrested for threatening to blow up the Jewish Center was described as “disgruntled” by a media relations vice president of the University. The charges the suspect faces have not been released and it is unknown whether his psychological history will come into play.
By Lara Stielow