Hostages released at Conn. university

by Ithan Peltan | 2/13/02 6:00am

A former Fairfield University student claiming to have a bomb took 22 students and an associate professor hostage yesterday at the Connecticut school before releasing them late yesterday evening.

The suspect, identified only as a recent graduate of the university, gave himself up peacefully about one hour after releasing the last hostage from the classroom where the students had been attending a religious studies class.

WCBS-TV in New York City -- Roman Catholic Fairfield is 20 miles from the New York border -- reported that the suspect forced one of the hostages to call the station and demand that a statement be broadcast.

The television station chose not to broadcast the statement, which spokesperson Karen Mateo described as "rambling and anti-Semitic."

Five of the original 23 hostages were released shortly after the suspect took over the religious studies class. He released the others throughout the evening, including the instructor of the class.

"He's been very calm throughout this ordeal," police Detective Sgt. Gene Palazzolo said while the suspect was still holding one hostage. "He's speaking coherently and his demeanor is calm."

Three-hundred students were evacuated from Canisius Hall -- where the class was taking place -- after the hostage situation erupted late yesterday afternoon.

A caller to police around 4 p.m. said a former student was claiming to have an explosive device on the second floor.

Fairfield Vice President Doug Whiting said yesterday afternoon that while the former student had been carrying either a box or bag, "It had not been determined whether the threat is credible."

Evening classes at the university of about 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students were cancelled. A prayer service was organized in one of the residence halls.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.