State and federal prosecutors have declined to file charges against a man whose words caused panic at college campuses in the city on Wednesday. Springfield police said Thursday that they were working to get Dustin Leer some mental health treatment before he is released.
"A case was presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but they have declined to file federal charges on Dustin Leer," a Springfield Police Department spokeswoman said in an e-mail statement. "Furthermore, we asked the Greene County prosecutor to review the facts of the case and he concurred that there is no state charge that specifically addresses the elements of yesterday’s case.
"However, the Springfield Police Department is in the process of doing an involuntary commitment order on Mr. Leer to at least provide some type of service in this case, and help to ensure our community is safe."
Ozarks Technical Community College, Evangel University, five Springfield School District schools, and two libraries in central Springfield were locked down early Wednesday afternoon because of a "potential threat." Shortly before 2 p.m., Springfield police arrested the man who they think made the threat. That ended the lockdowns.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said late Wednesday afternoon that social media caused panic about the vague threat to a college campus to spread quickly after it got mixed up with a separate incident about the same time involving two men in a green car who had a gun at Drury University. Williams said that situation seems to have involved road rage outside Trustee Science Center at Drury, but it had nothing to do with the possible threat to to a college campus from a man in south Springfield.
Williams said some of the information that was spread on social media was embellished and wrong.
Williams said U.S. Homeland Security reported the man made the threat in a call to the U.S. Social Security office at 2143 E. Primrose Street (not the one on West Battlefield Road as reported earlier). The threat included harm to college students. Homeland Security then told Greene County emergency dispatchers about it at 11:57 a.m.
A Springfield police officer waited for the man, Dustin Leer, to show up at the Social Security Office for a hearing for revoked benefits. When Leer arrived, he was detained for federal authorities shortly before 2 p.m. Police did not find weapons on him or in his vehicle.
Leer is in custody on a 24-hour hold on suspicion of making a terrorist threat. Williams said Springfield police will work with federal agents to see if he faces a federal charge.
In the meantime, at 12:40 p.m., police say a second, unrelated incident involved two men in a green car who became impatient with another person "trying to find or enter a parking space. It is apparent that one of the (men in the car) held up a gun to show he had one (not pointed at the victim) and then they drove away laughing."
The threat made in the call to the Social Security Office and the waving of the gun by the man in the car then got mixed together in alerts sent out by college security staffs. That may have caused some people to think the caller had gone to Drury with a gun.
Here's a message to reporters from the Springfield Police Department at 3:30:
"The Springfield Police Department (SPD) received information from the Department of Homeland Security and was asked to be on the lookout for a person making general threats. We took the precautionary move of making notifications to any institution or venue that might be impacted. Each organization implemented its own procedures used when advised of such a threat. This subject was said to be mentally disturbed and has made similar threats in the past.
"The subject who made the threats was located and detained. We are not yet releasing the name of the individual.
"During this time frame, a call was received at Drury University about a person possibly flashing a gun from a vehicle. This has not been confirmed. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and SPD responded. This was a separate incident. There was not an 'active shooter' on a campus."
Here's an (edited) message to reporters from OTC at 4:05 p.m.:
"At approximately 12:45 p.m., OTC went under a Red Alert emergency after being notified by the Homeland Security office of a call it had received concerning individual stating he was going to go on a Springfield college campus and start shooting.
"The campus-wide phone-alert system, emergency text messaging system and the College’s various social media platforms were used to inform everyone on campus of the emergency situation and to keep them apprised of any updates.
"Safety and security officers swept all buildings to make sure everyone was safe at all times. As a result of everyone’s quick action, the campus was in complete lockdown just minutes after receiving the alert from authorities.
"All students, faculty and staff were kept safe in campus classrooms and offices, waiting for the all-clear announcement, which came at 1:55 p.m. and classes returned to normal."
A message on OTC's website early in the afternoon urged everyone on campus to seek refuge in a locked office or locked classroom. The lockdown was ordered due to the potential threat, according to the message.
Here's the message initially sent out by Drury University's Office of Safety and Security and forwarded by OTC to its students and staff: