Southern Adventist University Bomb Scare: Case Dismissed
by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team, June 10, 2014
The case of the January 23 lock down at Southern Adventist University (SAU), complete with police teams and television vans played out its final scene last Thursday in Hamilton County (Tennessee) Superior Court in front of Judge David Bales. James Gaines, a former student at SAU, appeared in a hearing in which the judge wanted to be satisfied that the young man had fulfilled court orders issued 90 days earlier.
Gaines had transferred from SAU to Chattanooga State Community College, perhaps because of financial reasons, and January 23 was the last day he could register for classes there. The community college had not received transfer of academic credit from SAU and Gaines became frustrated with the academic bureaucracy and red tape, as have hundreds of thousands of other students.
Gaines vented his anger to Kisha Caldwell, director of enrollment services at the community college, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. He said he might have to "strap a bomb on" and "put a gun to their head" to get his transcript. He also said, "I'm sorry, I'm just kidding." But given the well-known incidents of campus violence in recent years, Caldwell felt that she needed to report the possible threat and phoned police in Collegedale, where the SAU campus is located.
The SAU campus was locked down until Collegedale Police found Gaines and took him into custody. Local television transmitted pictures of local police and other agencies on both campuses. Police told WTVC-TV they had received a "credible off-campus threat" and had immediately locked down both the SAU campus and other nearby schools. By early evening, Chattanooga police told the television station they had found Gaines at the nearby YMCA and arrested him. WDEF television Channel 12, the CBS affiliate in Chattanooga, reported that the campus re-opened about 2:30 p.m.
Many SAU students told reporters that all of this was overwhelming. "It's definitely unusual, nothing like that really happens around here ever and it's usually pretty quiet and all of a sudden the swat team shows up so it's a little scary," SAU student Derek Schutter was quoted at the time. SAU has an enrollment of about 3,000 students.
Gaines was eventually charged only with making false reports because no weapons or explosives of any kind were found. But even this minor charge could result in three years in prison.
At a March 6 hearing, the judge agreed to hold sentencing for a plan that would not result in any prison time, if Gaines followed the court orders. He was to continue counseling, which had already begun; do at least eight hours of volunteer service to the community; and write a letter of apology. Last week's hearing was to determine if he had, in fact, done those things.
The newspaper quoted from his letter of apology which was made public. "I feel terribly that I put Ms Caldwell in a position where she thought my statements could be a threat. She was incredibly helpful throughout the entire process of helping me continue my education. I deeply regret that my choice of words put her into an uncomfortable situation."
Satisfied that his requirements had been met, Judge Bales dismissed the charges against Gaines. In the meantime, Gaines had decided not to enroll at the community college. Adventist Today was not able to determine what he will do next.