UNR classes canceled after possible threat

photo providedMichael James Sheriff

photo providedMichael James Sheriff

Classes at the University of Nevada, Reno were canceled Thursday night and students were urged to leave the campus after Reno Police learned that a parolee, known to carry a weapon, had referenced the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Michael James Sheriff, 27, is wanted by the Nevada Department of Parole and Probation on a no-bail probation violation related to a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.

The Iraq-war Army veteran allegedly sent a text-message to a relative in which he said, "The Korean is my hero," an apparent reference to the gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage in which 32 people were killed, according to a news release from the Reno Police Department.

In the past Sheriff, who is a former UNR student, has indicated anger and frustration with those who are unappreciative of his efforts and service to his country, the release states.

Family members contacted Reno police on Wednesday, expressing concern that he might have become unstable; however, no specific threat or target has been expressed other than the text message.

Officers were unsuccessful in attempting to locate Sheriff on Thursday night, but they did recover an empty gun holster from his home.

A family member said when he last spoke to Sheriff on Wednesday and urged him to surrender to authorities, Sheriff replied, "That is not an option."

He then allegedly told the relative he would be unavailable because he would be on a "mission."

Sheriff allegedly suffers from post-traumatic-stress disorder and mental illness.

In December 2005, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon by Reno police.

Sheriff is described as 5-feet, 11-inches tall, weighing 175 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.

"Recent comments coupled his mental illness raise concern. There is no information related to a specific threat, target or planned hostile action by Mr. Sheriff," the release states.

Anyone with information on Sheriff's whereabouts is asked to call 911.

An e-mail sent out to students at about 8 p.m. noted, "Faculty, staff and students are advised not to linger or loiter in open areas and are reminded to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity by calling 911."

UNR also issued the following statement:

"There have been no direct threats to the campus, however we must take a situation like this seriously. We initiated campus communication to cancel classes Thursday evening. This communication also includes a description and photo of the individual in question, and a reminder for faculty, staff and students to remain vigilant, report any suspicious activity and not linger outdoors."


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