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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Person gathering signatures for petition threatens to shoot EWU students, police say

A person gathering signatures for a petition Thursday at Eastern Washington University started arguing with students and using racial slurs before threatening to fight students and shoot them, according to EWU police.

The incident started at 1:50 p.m. at the front steps of the Pence Union Building, police said in an email to students and staff. The email said the male gathering signatures started arguing with some students and threatened to come back with friends and shoot them.

He was last seen running off campus toward the transit station near North Ninth Street and Elm Street.

The suspect is described as a roughly 6-foot, heavy-set white male with longer, reddish-blond hair and a red beard, police said. He was wearing a Gonzaga shirt that may have been blue, red shorts and tennis shoes.

University police didn’t immediately return a message Thursday night seeking information on the incident, including the petition for which the male was gathering signatures.

In an email from EWU President Shari McMahan to employees and students, McMahan said the university applauds the students for standing up for their beliefs in a difficult situation while attempting to de-escalate the confrontation and avoiding physical violence.

“This type of behavior toward our students and campus community is unacceptable,” McMahan wrote. “While outside visitors to our public spaces have the right to exercise their freedom of speech, the university does not tolerate verbal or physical threats – whether explicit or implied. EWU is committed to the security and well-being of our campus community and will take appropriate actions to ensure everyone feels safe at Eastern.”

The email said the university’s leadership team met Thursday night to determine a course of action. A meeting will be held with students to listen to their concerns and discuss how the university will further address the issue.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has information on the identity of the individual is asked to contact EWU police at (509) 359-7676 or the Anonymous Tip Line at (509) 359-4286. Call 911 immediately to report a crime in progress.

People can use the “Report Incidents” button on the university homepage to report hate speech, bias-related acts or instances of discrimination and racism, police said.