Hiding in Plain Sight: Threat Suspect in Strebel During Lockdown


Terror threat suspect Fahrudin Omerovic (far left) sits against a wall in a designated safe zone at Utica College where he was reportedly consoling other students. (Photo contributed by anonymous student)

Samuel Northrup, Editor-in-Chief

Fahrudin Omerovic was arrested on multiple counts of making a terrorist threat, a Class D violent felony, and could face two to seven years in prison per count, Utica Police Chief Mark Williams said at a March 6 press conference the night of the suspect’s arrest.

While the investigation into the motive for the threats is ongoing, per Utica Police Lt. Bryan Coromato, photographs and details from those that were in lockdown in the Strebel Student Center “safe zone” on March 5 revealed the 23-year-old student hid in plain sight and was heard consoling peers.

Students and staff with knowledge of the suspect’s actions while in lockdown on March 5 declined to comment to The Tangerine.

For those that knew Omerovic, news of the online student’s alleged actions that led to a six-hour lockdown, as well as his behavior inside the safe zone, came as a shock.

Belkisa Nuhanovic, a sophomore and online student at UC, said she never would have expected Omerovic, who she knew from Thomas R. Proctor High School and worked with at Parkway Drugs in Utica, to threaten “innocent people like this, even if it was as a joke.”

“He was a good kid in high school, he was really smart, he went to class all the time, he was funny and joked around with people,” Nuhanovic said. “I would never see him as a threat, he was never a threatening person to anybody. He never got into conflicts with anybody.”

While Nuhanovic has not spoken with Omerovic in more than a year, she explained she had “always known him to be a liar about everything.”

“Everybody knew it,” she said. “For me, it was hard to believe anything that he said. He would say things like, ‘I got this car,’ but you would never really see it.”

Considering these characteristics, the charges against the suspect and students’ accounts of his actions on March 5, Andrew Kinney, a licensed psychologist at New Hartford Psychological Services and certified cognitive behavior therapist, explained that Omerovic’s behaviors show signs of “antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic disorder.” Kinney came to this conclusion based on information available since March 5 and did not attempt to make a formal diagnosis.

“He needs to be evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but what he’s doing is antisocial,” Kinney said. “And antisocial personalities don’t have any empathy for people, they are manipulative, they lie and are deceitful, but they are also charming in some cases and very intelligent. They have that charismatic side to them, but the dark side is this lack of regard for other people.”

Throughout the investigation, Coromato said, Omerovic has maintained his actions were “a prank that went too far” — which law enforcement believes is not the “true motive at this point.”

“Him doing this, there could have been some sort of mental thought process that only he knows at this point,” Coromato said. “He has not expressed that to us, but if that in fact was his behavior inside the safe zone it would be strange that he was making these threats and then being comforting to other people; I would definitely think there is something more there that needs to be looked into psychologically.”

Despite experiencing firsthand law enforcement’s response to threats made at Utica College, according to Williams’ March 6 press conference, threats directed towards UC continued into the day following the campus-wide lockdown.

“If it’s just a prank, he could have stopped right before it got out of hand, but he kept on doing it, which makes me think this is more of a personality trait that he has,” Kinney explained. “Maybe he likes to alarm people, likes to bring attention to himself, maybe he needs that kind of admiration from other people?”