Man arrested in connection with threats

By Luke Nozicka

The man who federal law enforcement say is responsible for sending bomb threat letters to the university that caused the evacuation of more than 2,000 students from the Brush Towers in the middle of the night in September 2012, has been charged.

Seven of his fingerprints were identified on four of the seven letters in the case, according to the charges announced Monday.

Derrick Dawon Burns, 21, of Chicago, was arrested Monday and charged with eight federal charges in connection to bomb and violent threats made against students and faculty in 2012 and 2013, announced Stephen R. Wigginton, a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

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Burns was charged Thursday for the then private criminal complaint, which was made public after his arrest Monday in the U.S. States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, an FBI release states.

Burns sent the series of letters to the university between September 2012 and 2013, which included threats such as rape, murder and blowing up buildings, according to U.S. District Court case records.

The first threat letter titled “The War on SIU,” found on Sept. 18, included threats to kill students, decapitate and rape female students and blow up the three Brush Tower Dormitories, according to the records.

“Give me $50 million or SIU is history,” Burns’ first letter stated.

The second letter entitled “The War on SIU Part 1 of 2,” again threatened students and was recovered by a USPS postal employee on about Sept. 20, 2012. The second letter stated bombs would be planted at the campus towers “tonight,” which were set to go off at 2 a.m. In response to the letters, about 2,100 students in the towers were evacuated to search for explosives, but no devices were found.

On about July 2, the Department of Public Safety and the FBI received two calls, from a caller with a distinctive voice, who claimed to have spoken with someone who introduced himself as “Big Russ” in fall 2012. The caller said Big Russ told him he made a threat to the university, raped at least five students on campus, buried human remains in campus woods and disposed bodies in campus lake. The caller said he wished to remain anonymous because he had lost his wallet or ID at a bar in Carbondale, where he first met Big Russ, and was concerned Big Russ may show up at his home because he knew the caller’s address, court records state. The second call received later that day also described the caller’s two meetings with Big Russ in October 2012, and the caller had the same distinct voice.

Investigations revealed the phone used to make both tips is used by Burns, and he was questioned by FBI agents and Task Force Officer Christopher Scott Miller on Aug. 26 in Chicago, where Burns admitted to placing the calls.

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“Among other things, Burns indicated that Big Russ claimed to have raped 20 to 30 women, to have killed a couple people, to have hung a couple people and to have made bomb threats,” court paperwork states. “The affiant expressed concerns to Burns that ‘…after having listened to your call to SIU, your call to the FBI, your accounts here today, that they do not…’, and Burns interjected ‘match up.’”

Agents suspected Burns was involved or knew about the letters, and sent them to the FBI Lab for DNA and fingerprint examinations. Burns provided fingerprints to agents on Sept. 3 in Chicago, which were submitted to the FBI Laboratory. Lab examiners positively matched Burns’ submitted fingerprints to four of the seven letters.

“It is also noted that Burns demonstrated detailed knowledge of the content of the violent threats and claims made by the writer of the letters, and that these details had not been disclosed publicly,” the court records state.

University spokesperson Rae Goldsmith said Burns attended the university in fall 2011, spring 2012, fall 2012 and fall 2013, where he was working toward a major in criminology and criminal justice.

“Burns is being held without bond pending a detention hearing set for Wednesday” in Chicago, the FBI release states. Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Coonan and Special Assitant U.S. Attorney John C. Constance are prosecuting the case.

This story will be updated online as more information becomes available.

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