Firefighters prepare the University Town Center to allow students and staff back into the building. Students were evacuated from the building when a suspicious object was found on the third floor. Photo by Prescott Watson.
Photo by Prescott Watson.
Photo by Prescott Watson.

Walking the stairs of the University Town Center (UTC) last Monday afternoon, residence and office doors remained closed, and the only sound to be heard was the occasional shuffling of feet as students quietly returned to their apartments.

Earlier that morning, students had been evacuated from the UTC building after a suspicious object was found on the third floor near the Internal Revenue Service office. The object, which was later determined to be a laptop and some wires, was found to be harmless.

There has not been a bomb threat associated with UC Santa Cruz in the past three years, according to the UC Police Department website.

“Since [the object] was placed there before [the offices] opened, they weren’t sure if it was placed maliciously or what might be in it, so we worked with federal officials — because this is a federal office — to determine what was in there,” said Zach Friend, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Police Department.

The sheriff’s bomb squad examined the package and determined nothing inside to be “dangerous,” Friend said.

There were two people from the sheriff department’s bomb squad and six officers dealing with evacuations. An onlooker remarked that when she saw the number of police and fire personnel present, she “thought someone had died.”

Sgt. Tom Bailey said that the Santa Cruz Police Department had received a call from a tenant at around 9:15 a.m. Monday, and also said it is normal protocol to call out the county bomb squad in these types of situations. Once the situation was resolved, he stated that the package did not appear to be an “intentional threat or decoy.”

Although it was determined later that the unattended bag did not pose a threat, some students expressed appreciation for measures the police department took to insure their safety.

Evan Leckman, a third-year literature student who currently resides in the UTC building, understood the situation to be a necessary step toward public protection, despite being hurriedly bustled out into the chilly morning.

“I don’t want to say [being evacuated] was an inconvenience because you never know about this kind of stuff and, I mean that whole congresswoman [shooting] just happened,” Leckman said. “They’re just doing their job.”

Leckman stood in the stairwell, coffee in hand and textbook cradled under his arm, and described the experience of being asked to immediately evacuate his apartment earlier that morning.

“[The cops] were like, ‘Get out, right now,’” Leckman said. “I got a book I needed to read for tomorrow, put on a shirt, and went outside. Everyone was just standing out there.”

Leckman said the students were unsure of what was really going on.

“I thought it was the ACLU that [was] threatened, but it wasn’t, it was the IRS,” Leckman said.

The American Civil Liberties Union office neighbors the IRS office in the UTC building.

Although it was difficult to gauge, since many residents were already away from the building, Bailey estimated that at least half the residents of the UTC had been evacuated from their apartments. Leckman said the situation “wasn’t chaotic” despite students being given little time to leave.

“They had [cops] on every floor, and every time I walked by, [they were] like, ‘You didn’t forget anything, right? You’ve got your keys? Your wallet?’” Leckman said. “[The police] did a great job. They were really nice about it.”