FBI: Former college student threatened to blow up dorms, kill student

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FBI: Former college student threatened to blow up dorms, kill student

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By Liam Ford

Chicago Tribune


A Chicago man sent a series of letters claiming he was going to bomb buildings at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, threatening to shoot staff and rape, kill and decapitate students if he didn’t receive $50 million, according to federal court documents.

Derrick Dawon Burns, 21, a former student at SIUC, has been charged with making bomb threats and mailing threatening communications in the letters, which were dated between September 2012 and October 2013. Burns, who is alleged to have written letters including one claiming to be a “Terrorist for alqaeda,” is being held pending a detention hearing Wednesday in Chicago, according to court documents and a release from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

Burns was caught after he made anonymous calls to the FBI and SIU police this summer claiming he had spoken to someone named “Big Russ” in a Carbondale bar who said he had raped and killed people, according to an affidavit from an FBI agent filed with the charges. The phone number used to make the calls was listed in SIU records as a number for Burns, according to the affidavit.

Burns’ fingerprints were found on four of eight threatening letters tied to Burns that were directed to SIU, several of them containing variations on the phrase “War on SIU,” according to the affidavit.

The first letter, found at a Carbondale postal facility on Sept. 18, 2012, threatened to blow up three tower buildings on campus and rape and decapitate female students.

“Give me $50 million or SIU is history,” the letter threatened, according to the affidavit.

Another letter found a few days later threatening to blow up the Brush Tower dormitories on campus prompted an evacuation of about 2,100 students from the buildings on Sept. 20, 2012, but none of the threatened bombs were found. After the evacuation, investigators gave a redacted copy of the letter to news media that didn’t contain any specific threats, according to the affidavit.

In the six subsequent letters, the writer threatened to kill students, threatened again to bomb the tower dorms and claimed to have buried bodies in nearby woods and dumped bodies in a lake, according to the affidavit. The last letter was found about Oct. 1, 2013. In one the letter-writer signed himself “Terrorist of America.”

On July 2, a tipster called the SIU police department and the FBI, making the claims about “Big Russ.” During their investigation, FBI agents had spoken to Burns on the same phone number used to make the calls, according to the affidavit.

In late August, FBI agents interviewed Burns in Chicago and he gave a third account of his dealings with “Big Russ.” Agents confronted him about their suspicions that he was involved in writing the letters, but he denied any hand in them, according to the affidavit. But the agents served him with a subpoena, forcing him to give his fingerprints.

On Sept. 24, FBI agents in Chicago were informed that four of the letters had a fingerprint or fingerprints matching Burns’ on them, and the next day, charges against Burns were filed under seal. They were unsealed Wednesday.

Each of the eight federal charges against Burns carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, according to the release.

©2014 Chicago Tribune

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