BOULDER, Colo. — Evacuations and shelter-in-place orders were lifted in Boulder after a man was taken into custody for allegedly sending an email that threatened to "attack Boulder outside of the university," Boulder police said Tuesday morning.
The suspect was identified by the Boulder Police Department (BPD) on Tuesday afternoon as Matthew Christopher Harris, 31.
BPD Chief Maris Herold said that on Monday, Harris sent a threatening email with a link to an 800-page manifesto that threatened violence, and the information was forwarded to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Police Department. The manifesto had thousands of violent references to bombs, killings, death, murder, shootings, schoolyard massacres and phrases like, "Burn and attack Boulder outside of the university," she said. BPD is still investigating any mention of UCLA in the manifesto.
The UCLA PD tracked Harris to Boulder and notified the BPD on Monday at 6 p.m.
The BPD began an investigation with state and federal partners and located Harris within city limits and along the 900 block of Broadway.
Harris allegedly sent additional threats to people indicating that he knew authorities were outside his apartment, police said. Police stayed at the home overnight to make sure he didn't try to escape.
At 7:52 a.m. Tuesday, the Boulder Regional SWAT was activated to help with the investigation. SWAT set up a perimeter around Harris' location and officers started evacuating nearby schools, homes and businesses, including University of Colorado Boulder fraternities and sororities in the area. Police also issued a shelter-in-place around 9:50 a.m. for 65 homes near the apartment complex where the suspect was, Herold said. That shelter in place was lifted at 12:42 p.m., the department said in a tweet. As a result of the police activity, University Hill Elementary School staff evacuated its students and canceled school for the rest of the day. The school was fully evacuated by 9 a.m.
Based on the police department's investigation, Harris had attempted to buy a handgun in Jefferson County on Nov. 2, but was denied the purchase, Herold said.
Police applied for a search warrant, which was approved, and officers and crisis negotiators attempted to make contact with Harris. They were able to reach him via phone.
At 11:07 a.m., officers were able to take Harris into custody. Herold said police were in contact with Harris in October, but no criminal charges came out of that.
Detectives searched the apartment, which he lived in, afterward, Herold said. She said police believe Harris had a connection to Boulder, but they're not sure of the details or of any direct relation to CU Boulder.
"The importance of having collaboration at the federal, state and local levels was critical to the swift resolution of this incident this morning," she said. "This incident today is yet another reminder of the ongoing need for strong relationships with our federal law enforcement partners to protect the Boulder community."
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said that he recognized Tuesday was scary for Boulder's residents. He thanked the BPD's work responding quickly to the situation.
Harris was initially taken into custody on state charges because the threats involved people who are out of state, he said. In an update Tuesday evening, authorities announced Harris was transferred to federal custody due to pending federal charges.
"The BPD took these threats and what they read in that manifesto very seriously, and acted immediately," Dougherty said. "As the chief indicated, they learned about that on Jan. 31 — that's yesterday. We have a safe and peaceful resolution today. And I want to acknowledge that what they did and how they went about is why there were no injuries and no casualties associated with this event."
He said there is an ongoing investigation into "matters that took place while [Harris] was in the state of California," but added that based on a protection order in the state, there was a national database that included a provision that he was not allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. Based on that, Dougherty said his office believes that that was why he was not able to buy the firearm in Jefferson County in November.
CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano published a letter to campus that acknowledged the incident may have caused anxiety and concern in the community.
"For many, this is a reminder of previous events and losses we have sustained," DiStefano said. "I am grateful for law enforcement’s rapid efforts to identify and detain the suspect.... Our CU Boulder community has been through so much over the past two years. I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your patience and understanding as we work through public safety incidents like this. And I want to thank our CU Police Department and the other responding agencies who work tirelessly to keep our campus and community safe."
In a letter sent to students from UCLA, school leaders said they were greatly relieved to hear that Harris, who had allegedly made threats against some members of the UCLA community, was taken into custody.
The statement reads, in part: "The threats made yesterday were frightening for many of us and caused our community to feel vulnerable at an already challenging time. We know many Bruins turned to one another for support. Campus counseling is also available at 310-825-0768 for anyone who needs additional care. These are unsettling times and your well-being is a top priority, so please do not hesitate to reach out for help if you need it. ... We offer our deepest thanks to UCPD and other law enforcement agencies for thoroughly investigating these threats as soon as we learned of them and for coordinating to locate and arrest the individual in Colorado. We also want to thank all of you for checking in on those around you. Compassion and care for one another are the hallmarks of a true community."
UCLA will return to in-person learning on Wednesday.
This is a developing story and will be updated.