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Originally published March 6, 2013 at 7:46 PM | Page modified March 7, 2013 at 1:46 PM

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Intruder terrifies students in Seattle University class

A man wearing a trench coat took over a Seattle University law-school classroom Wednesday and intimidated more than 50 students with his bizarre behavior before he was arrested.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

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A man who took over a Seattle University law-school classroom Wednesday afternoon and frightened students with his bizarre behavior was later arrested by Seattle police on suspicion of trespassing.

Several students said his behavior was so unsettling that they thought he was going to pull a gun or become violent. They also said they were disappointed at the slow response from campus public-safety officers.

But Seattle U officials said safety officers arrived about a minute after the professor hit a “panic” call button from the classroom podium, and “the entire incident on campus lasted a matter of minutes,” said university safety director Randall Carroll in a message sent around campus.

The incident happened in Sullivan Hall, the law-school center, around 1:30 p.m., during a torts class with about 50 students in attendance.

The man, who was wearing a dark trench coat, walked into the class eating an ice-cream cone and sat on a table near the podium at the front of the room, said a student who asked not to be identified.

The professor asked the man to leave; when he refused, she called campus security.

The man’s actions became increasingly erratic and threatening, and with no sign of campus officers, the professor dismissed the class, according to the student.

Seattle police said the man was talking incoherently and turned over tables and other classroom furniture.

Mental illness may have contributed to his conduct, police said.

A cellphone video identified as taken during the incident, and which was posted to Facebook, showed a man running up and down the aisles of the classroom, leaping over desks as students hastily packed up their laptops and backpacks and left the room.

“It was horrifying,” said another student who asked not to be named. “I thought we were going to be that next school in the news about school shootings.”

She, too, said she thought the university’s public-safety response was too slow.

The students said they were unable to call 911 from the classroom and believed reception was blocked.

But university spokeswoman Stacy Howard said there is no cellphone reception in most parts of the classroom because it’s in the basement.

The students said they were upset about the slow response and believed the school should have instituted a lockdown and sent out a campuswide warning.

They say they plan to meet to discuss the incident, and may draft a formal complaint to the school.

The suspect, 38, was being followed by Seattle U security officers when Seattle police arrived. The man who police said was unarmed was booked into the King County Jail.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or klong@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @katherinelong.

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