A senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston was ordered to be held on $20,000 cash bail today after he was charged with allegedly using off-campus pay phones to call in two bomb threats to the school in the past week, authorities said.
Dean Beckford, 29, of Somerville, allegedly told police he was “not doing so good” in classes when he was arrested Tuesday afternoon by university police as he arrived on campus, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
However, when questioned by police, Beckford did not directly address the accusations against him, prosecutors said in Dorchester District Court court today, adding that investigators said they stopped questioning him after he asked to speak to an attorney.
A plea of not guilty was automatically entered on Beckford’s behalf when he was arraigned on two counts of making a bomb threat in connection with calls he allegedly made to the university on Tuesday and last Thursday.
On both dates shortly before 1 p.m., buildings were evacuated after the dean’s office in Wheatley Hall received a call threatening that there would soon be an explosion in the building, UMass Boston said in a statement.
Boston Police and State Police bomb squads using K-9 units searched the area each time but found no explosive devices and reopened the buildings.
Campus police traced the first call to a pay phone at the Davis MBTA station in Somerville and later traced the second call to a pay phone on Tremont Street near the Park Street MBTA station, according to prosecutors.
UMass Boston police worked with Transit Police to collect surveillance camera footage of the call being made from Davis Station. Authorities identified Beckford after matching him that footage and other footage from cameras on campus, prosecutors said. University faculty helped investigators identify Beckford.
Judge Lisa Grant ordered that, if Beckford posts bail, he wear a GPS device and surrender both of his passports to the court, the district attorney’s office said.
His next court date is scheduled for May 19, the district attorney’s office said.
Beckford’s attorney Scott Lauer could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.
“Although we apologize for the inconvenience that these incidents caused for students, faculty, and staff, campus safety is always our highest priority,” UMass Boston Police Chief Donald Baynard said in a statement.
“I commend my staff for their timely and thorough investigation that led to this arrest,” he added. “I hope this will be a clear and resounding message that we take these types of actions very seriously, and will aggressively investigate and pursue criminal charges when unfounded threats are made to the safety of the campus.”Matt Rocheleau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele.