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UW-Madison students witness bomb threat near US Capitol

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 5:30 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW-Madison students studying near the US Capitol said they crossed paths with a man who claimed to have a bomb Thursday.

“I don’t know what’s normal for D.C.,” senior Sydney Bobb said. “I would imagine the capital of the country is like the center for a lot of crazy things to happen.”

Bobb and 12 other students have been learning about race and politics from the nation’s capital, according to professor David Canon. Their classroom is located in the United Methodist Church headquarters, Canon said, less than two blocks away from the suspect.

On her way to class Thursday morning, Bobb described walking past the man who US Capitol Police would later identify as 49-year old Floyd Ray Roseberry from North Carolina. She said Roseberry was in a truck parked on the sidewalk of the Library of Congress.

“He just shouted and threw money out of the truck,” she said. “He said that he had a bomb, and that was just enough for me [to say,] ‘Whether he has one or not— get out the way.’”

Bobb said she called to warn classmates like Stephanie Benton, who were walking behind her. Benton recalled asking Bobb, “‘Did you say b-o-m-b, or did you say something else?’”

Benton, a UW-Madison senior, continued, “Being from a smaller city, I don’t think that any of us believed at first that it was an actual big threat, and so most of us were just like, ‘Okay, well, now we go to class.’ So we went to class.”

According to a press release from US Capitol Police, nearby buildings were evacuated, but by that time, Canon said his class was already inside.

He said, “The Secret Service agent told us to shelter in place. That was their original recommendation because once we did talk to them, they said, ‘Stay in the building, that’s where you’re safest.’”

The class said it spent the next hour-and-a-half talking with worried parents and keeping eyes on the news.

“Everything was decently tense,” Benton said, “but I do think that keeping a lighter atmosphere— some people were bringing humor into it— did help us.”

Bobb gave credit to the calm of her professor, who said, “One thing I told them, and this wasn’t a joke was, ‘Well, now you have a good story to tell your grandchildren,’ and ‘This is something we will remember the rest of our lives for sure.’”

In order to evacuate, Canon said the class re-routed three blocks around the perimeter and made it back to the hotel.

After an hours-long standoff, US Capitol Police reported taking the suspect into custody, clearing the vehicle and marking the area as safe.

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