Man who threatened to kill Skidmore student and caused campus lockdown arrested

Posted by Rebecca Orbach, Managing Editor

The Atlantic City Police have apprehended Lance C. Leonard, 49, the man who threatened a female student at the College and caused a campus lockdown from about 7 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Leonard was arrested at 6:40 a.m. on Wednesday in Atlantic City, N.J., on a warrant for first-degree coercion, a felony that suggests he was using threat of bodily harm to control the student's actions.

District Attorney James A. Murphy III said Leonard was in a relationship with the student, who is in her early 20s, and began threatening her when she tried to end their relationship.  

At 2:40 p.m. on March 5 the father of the victim called SSPD to report that he had received phone calls to his home in Sherborn, Mass. from Leonard threatening to shoot his daughter at the College, then himself.

SSPD immediately contacted Campus Safety, who began searching for the intended victim, who was off campus at the time. They also contacted the Sherborn Police, who, because of Leonard's previous criminal history, were able to ping his phone to find his location.

Sherborn Police tracked his location to New Rochelle and said they believed he was on his way to Saratoga Springs.

Leonard had visited the victim at the College before and had taken the bus in his previous visits.

"This movement was consistent with what investigators had learned about Leonard's prior travel to Saratoga Springs, and based on what we believed, he was next headed to Albany and then Saratoga via bus," Lieutenant John Catone of SSPD said.

Sherborn Police also shared that Leonard suffered from a mental health disease, but Catone was not able to comment further on the man's mental health.

When the victim returned to campus she found SSPD and Campus Safety who informed her of Leonard's communication to her father. She called her father and decided, as it had not yet been confirmed that Leonard was on his way, that she wanted to attend class.

"We were on board, Skidmore Campus Safety was on board, and at no time did I believe she was in harm's way, because we had officers around the campus and Skidmore Campus Safety was around campus and aware of her location," Catone said.

The victim was scheduled to be in class until 7 p.m., but saw a message from Leonard at 6:40 p.m. confirming he was on his way to campus to kill her and then himself.

"Prior arrangements had been made with her for SSPD and Campus Safety to meet her when class ended," Catone said.

The student was removed from campus to a remote location, where she was safeguarded by members of SSPD and interviewed by SSPD investigators and Sherborn Police.

The campus was on lockdown by 7 p.m.

Case Center and the Lucy Scribner Library were evacuated and the Arthur Zankel Music Center was closed shortly after 8 p.m. The performance of "Orlando," which was scheduled for 8 p.m., was canceled just as it was about to begin.

At about 7p.m., after having gotten word that Leonard was in New Rochelle, SSPD received word from Sherborn Police that Leonard had turned off his phone, ceasing their ability to track his location.

"Given what we believed was a very serious public safety concern, SSPD officers were placed at the entrances of Skidmore College, and all vehicles were stopped and checked," Catone said.

Additionally, SSPD officers were placed at bus stations and checked every bus for a possible match until 1 a.m., at which point Leonard's phone was turned back on and the ping indicated that he was in Atlantic City, NJ.

SSPD contacted Atlantic City Police Department and made them aware of the situation. "They were given a copy of our arrest warrant and a photo of Leonard," Catone said.

By around 6:30 a.m. outside the Taj Mahal hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., police had a visual of Leonard, and by 6:40 a.m. he was in custody.

Catone said Leonard did not have any weapons SSPD was aware of.

At 6 a.m. the college had resumed normal activity, and by 7:50 a.m., a Campus Safety Report informed the community "the man suspected of making threats yesterday to harm a Skidmore College student has been apprehended."

"On behalf of the command staff and the Saratoga Springs Police Department  I would like to thank Skidmore Campus Safety, Sherborn Police Department, Atlantic City Police Department, the District Attorney's office, and the men and women of Saratoga Springs Police Department for outstanding work, professionalism, and collaboration of efforts to bring a serious public safety threat to a peaceful conclusion," Catone said.

Rochelle Calhoun, Dean of Student Affairs, sent an email to parents at about 9 a.m. letting them know the suspect was in custody.

"We are most appreciative of the efforts of the Saratoga Springs Police and the various other agencies who were part of this effort," Calhoun said in her email.

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Man who threatened Skidmore student arrested