BATON ROUGE, La. – The thousands of students who live on the Louisiana State University campus have begun returning to their dormitories after bomb-sniffing dogs and police methodically swept residential halls Monday following a threat that sparked a campus-wide evacuation.
LSU spokesman Herb Vincent said officials hope to reopen the Baton Rouge campus by Monday night, but they aren't certain if a building-by-building sweep will be complete before Tuesday.
"Residential Life buildings have now been deemed ready to return to normal operations," Vincent said Monday evening.
Evangeline Hall, a residential building on campus, was reopened first and officials began directing some of the 6,000 on-campus residents into the building as the investigation continued, Vincent said. He said residential halls were searched first and buses to and from the campus have been running normally.
Thousands of students, professors and workers were told to leave campus Monday morning after a threat was phoned into 911 about 10:32 a.m., university spokeswoman Kristine Calongne said. But the threat did not indicate a specific part of campus, so police and bomb-sniffing dogs have been meticulously sweeping each of the 250 buildings on campus.
LSU Police Capt. Corey Lalonde said no explosives have been found.
By mid-afternoon, the LSU campus was largely deserted and roads were closed, though some people and cars were still moving around. Police officers with dogs combed through buildings, including the computer services center.
State police bomb technicians were on the scene, said Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain. He said authorities were talking to their counterparts in Texas, North Dakota and Ohio, where similar threats were received Friday, but officials say they're not sure if the phone call made Monday was connected to those threats. Police found no explosives on those campuses.
"It's kind of been an epidemic. This has been the fourth in a week. But it's better to be safe than sorry," said Joseph Vera, a communications disorders graduate student.
Vera and a fellow graduate student were working in a language clinic with seven children near the edge of campus when they received the text message about the bomb threat. The pair walked the children across the street to an off-campus restaurant and they called the children's parents.
The university sent a follow-up message to students at 1:36 p.m. telling them not to return.
Col. Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police superintendent, said despite some initial traffic congestion, the campus was evacuated in under an hour.
The university put out a statement on its website announcing the evacuation an hour after the phone call was received, then distributed the information through text messages, emails and social media.
There are 30,000 students, professors and university employees located on the Baton Rouge campus, but it was not clear how many were there at the time of the threat.