Weber State student charged after terroristic threats, lockdown

Thursday , January 05, 2017 - 12:57 PM21 comments

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A Weber State University student has been charged with three counts of making terroristic threats after allegedly saying he would kill people over a disciplinary matter, campus police Chief Dane LeBlanc said Thursday.

Thewodrus Birhanu, 35, was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a series of incidents in late December, one of which led to a police lockdown of an administration building, according to LeBlanc and 2nd District Court records.

Birhanu, a physics student enrolled at Weber since 2014, was meeting with an official about alleged student code violations on Wednesday, Dec. 21, when he “became angry, saying they were pushing him to kill people,” LeBlanc said. A police probable cause statement said Birhanu threatened to kill people, burn cars and cause other destruction unless the student code charges were dropped.

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The student left and then threatened two other officials outside, causing police to lock down the Miller Administration Building for about an hour, LeBlanc said.

“Several people feared for their safety,” the probable cause document said. LeBlanc added, “He was saying ‘I kill people, I kill people.’”

Officers could not find Birhanu that day.

When the man returned to campus the next day, he was given a trespass notice. The following day, he sent an email threatening to kill an administrator, then sent another email the next day saying if he wanted to kill people, a trespass notice would not stop him, the court documents said.

On Dec. 28, Birhanu emailed a university employee saying he would never leave them alone and “you have to know you will lose one of your body parts.”

Leblanc said police had Birhanu involuntarily committed to a hospital psychiatric ward and he was arrested upon his release Tuesday.

Birhanu made his initial court appearance Thursday, and Judge Noel Hyde ordered he continue to be held in the Weber County Jail without bail.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10. Public defender James Rettalick was appointed to represent Birhanu, who requested an Amharic interpreter. Court officials said an interpreter for that language might not be found in time for the next hearing. Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia.

In addition to the three felonies, Birhanu is charged with misdemeanor trespassing and causing official action due to a threat of terrorism.

Efforts to reach Retallick were not immediately successful.

LeBlanc said school officials had started student code proceedings against Birhanu earlier in December for alleged disruptive behavior on campus. 

“He was talking about burning cars and killing people,” LeBlanc said.

University spokeswoman Allison Hess said Thursday officials were considering further administrative action against Birhanu in light of the recent incidents.

“When anyone makes threats we take that very seriously,” she said. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Dane LeBlanc’s first name.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at

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