A now-former instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was arrested Thursday after he reportedly left a message saying that he was “about to become an active shooter.”
Joseph Howard Trotter, 67, left the message on the direct line of UAPB Police Chief Maxie Thomas, according to a probable cause affidavit Thomas submitted to prosecutors that was presented in district court Friday.
The directory for UAPB identified Trotter as working in the Biology Department.
University spokeswoman Tisha Arnold released the following statement late Friday about the incident.
“The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is committed to providing a safe environment for its students, faculty, staff and community. Dr. Joseph Trotter, a former employee, has been arrested and removed from the campus after he was accused of making a threatening phone call to the campus police. Trotter has been ordered by the court not to return to campus. Pine Bluff Police Department is working with campus police and other authorities on any criminal charges that might arise. UAPB will be in full support and cooperation with Pine Bluff police as we remain diligent in maintaining the safety of the campus and its constituents.”
Thomas also reported in the affidavit that Trotter told him that he had several weapons, including an AR-15 that had been modified to fire in full automatic mode with multiple clips holding between 30 rounds and 100 rounds, as well as other weapons.
Following a court hearing Friday, Jefferson County District Judge Kim Bridgforth ruled prosecutors have probable cause to charge Trotter with falsely communicating a terroristic threat, a Class B felony. Bridgforth set bond for Trotter at $50,000 and ordered him to stay off the UAPB campus.
The call from Trotter came one day after a shooting at a Florida school that killed 17 people.
The incident began Wednesday when Trotter, who had parked his vehicle at the STEM building on campus, left the building and found that someone had parked a vehicle behind his, blocking him in. After an unsuccessful attempt to locate the driver of the vehicle, Trotter made several phone calls, including at least one to campus police. In that call, Trotter said he was running late for an appointment across campus and was “somewhat frustrated” that he was going to be late.
Thomas reported that Trotter became more frustrated over time because he felt he was not getting the proper response to his call, and that is when he called Thomas’s direct line and left a voicemail message.
Trotter said, “Chief, this is Joe Trotter, I’m over at the STEM building and I’m parked legally and there’s someone parked perpendicular behind me and I need for them to move. I’m about to lose my patience, I’m about to become an active shooter, thank you.”
After the voicemail was discovered, UAPB police were placed on high alert for any suspicious activity and instructed to locate and detain Trotter for questioning.
Trotter turned himself in to UAPB police Thursday. He was interviewed by Thomas, who read Trotter his rights, which he acknowledged and signed the form. Trotter also signed a second form waiving his rights.
Thomas reported that Trotter was allowed to listen to the voicemail and acknowledged that the voice on the recording was his, and that he had placed the call from his cell phone because he was “frustrated over a combination of several things, including not being paid for six weeks and people repeatedly parking in his parking space.”
“Trotter denied that he was going to actually shoot someone but couldn’t explain why he chose to use the term active shooter,” Thomas said in the affidavit.
In addition to the AR-15, Trotter told Thomas that he had three shotguns, two .38-caliber revolvers, a Beretta nine-millimeter and several .22-caliber weapons.
“Trotter denied ever bringing any of his guns on campus but made the statement about becoming an active shooter out of a combination of factors that fueled his frustration,” Thomas said in the affidavit.
In conclusion, Thomas wrote that Trotter admitted and confirmed that he made the statement and left the voicemail message, saying, “I’m about to become an active shooter.”
“Trotter also had the capability to carry out his threat, due to his knowledge and possession of firearms he admitted to,” Thomas said in the affidavit.