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Shepherd University employee charged with making threats

September 27, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - An employee in Shepherd University's information technology department was arrested Tuesday after a threatening e-mail was sent to President David L. Dunlop stating that the campus would be "visited by random violence" if the school was not closed for a week, court records state.

Four e-mails were sent to Dunlop and other administrators and one of the e-mails stated the possibility of campus buildings being burned and students being shot as they tried to leave them, according to Jefferson County Magistrate Court records.

Gregory Shannon Fike, 29, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was charged with four counts of threats of a terrorist act and one count of threatening communication by computer, according to police and Jefferson County Magistrate Court records.

Fike was charged last week with second-degree arson for allegedly setting a fire in a trash can in the basement of the administration building where Dunlop and other administrators work, court records said.

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Fike, of 823 Martins Landing Circle, was being held Tuesday afternoon in Eastern Regional Jail near Martinsburg on $300,000 bond.

Sgt. D.L. Kelvington of the Shepherd University Police Department said in a criminal complaint that Dunlop received an e-mail which advised that the university would see random violence that would "destroy its image as a safe campus" if the school was not shut down for seven days.

"The e-mail further advised the university president that he should not play with the lives of his students and employees," Kelvington said.

E-mails were sent to Dunlop, the director of human resources and two vice presidents, said Grover Boyer, chief of the university's police department.

Employees and students were advised to be on the lookout last week for any suspicious activities on campus after school administrators received the e-mails.

Students and employees were told Thursday they no longer had to look for suspicious activity after consulting with law enforcement officials, Shepherd spokeswoman Valerie Owens said.

Although the e-mails were sent using a server that blocked the tracking of computer addresses, one of the servers that was used - SecurityPunk.com - cooperated with Kelvington in tracking the computer address to Fike's desk computer, the complaint said.

Fike cooperated by giving Kelvington a written and verbal confession detailing his actions and motive, the complaint said.

Although Boyer said he could not comment in detail about a motive for the e-mails, he said in an interview they were done for "personal gain."

The fire which led to the second-degree arson charge against Fike occurred last Wednesday in Ikenberry Hall, court records said.

Fike reported to work at about 7:45 a.m. that day and after checking his e-mails and voice mail, he allegedly started a fire in a trash can, magistrate court records said.

The fire was started in a mechanical room where there were other combustibles, according to court records.

Boyer said he believes the fire was set as part of a plan to carry out one of the threats in the e-mail.

Another employee noticed the fire and put it out with a fire extinguisher, Boyer said.

"It pretty much filled the IT area up with smoke," Boyer said.

Fike was in a room across from the IT department at the time, Boyer said.

Fike has worked for Shepherd for about five years, first working part time in the school's library before going to work in the information technology department, Boyer said.

Boyer said he did not know Fike and what he learned about him was gained through other employees.

"It's not much. He's a quiet person," Boyer said.

Dunlop said he did not know Fike.

Boyer said the threats represented one of the more unusual incidents to happen on the campus.

"When you don't know what you're dealing with, it can be scary," Boyer said.

Threats of terrorist act carries a penalty of one to three years in jail and threatening communication by computer and second-degree arson carry a penalty of one to 10 years in jail.

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