Man seen with rifle near WWU early Tuesday said he had to ‘take care of’ some ‘bad people’

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The Bellingham Police Department enforces the law within Bellingham city limits.
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The Bellingham Police Department enforces the law within Bellingham city limits.

Classes continued as usual Tuesday at Western Washington University, but with extra police presence, after an early morning manhunt failed to locate an apparently armed man who approached a WWU shuttle bus driver two blocks south of the main campus in the Happy Valley neighborhood.

Bellingham Police and Western Washington University officers searched the campus and surrounding areas after the bus driver reported seeing a man with a gun who said he had to “take care of” some “bad people” shortly after 4 a.m.

University officials sent a text message and email to warn students, staff and others at 5:22 a.m.

“The driver had gotten out of the shuttle when he was startled to be approached by a man carrying what appeared to be a rifle slung over his right shoulder,” the WWU email said. “The man told the driver ‘Don’t worry about all this. There are a lot of bad people out tonight that I need to take care of.’ ”

WWU’s email said the incident was at 25th Street and Douglas Avenue near the campus Physical Plant in Happy Valley, about a block south of Sehome High School and a block north of Happy Valley Elementary.

According to WWU’s email, the shuttle driver jumped back in the bus and drove away. He last saw the man walking southeast away from campus toward Douglas.

An email sent about an hour after the first alert said police concluded their search and did not find the man who was seen carrying a rifle.

WWU’s email described the man as white, about 6 feet tall, wearing dark pants with a lighter top and a hat or cap.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 911, 3911 from campus phones or the University Police anonymous reporting line at 360-650-7233.

“We realize that such incidents can cause significant concern and anxiety on campus,” WWU officials said in an email at approximately noon.

“University police are actively patrolling campus, have added patrols and will continue communicating with Bellingham police to monitor for any potential threat posed to campus,” the email said.

It was the second incident involving police action in that area in a week. Sehome High was put in “lockout” mode May 7 after a student nearby reported an incident that was suspicious but never was considered a direct threat to the school.

Classes at Sehome and Happy Valley continued as usual on Tuesday, Bellingham Public Schools spokesperson Dana Smith told The Bellingham Herald.

“We are aware of the reported incident and have been working closely with the Bellingham police,” Smith said in an email.

“At this time we are maintaining school as normal. If anything changes, we will notify families,” she said.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.