OU Assault: No Threat To Campus, Additional Charge Filed

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In an effort to stem “speculation” about the intentions of a man who is in custody for allegedly assaulting an OU staff member and being in possession of a firearm, the chief of the Ohio University Police Department released a statement to the university community on Friday.

The chief also announced another charge filed against the man.

Chief Andrew Powers said he was releasing the statement to “provide factual information” about the incident and the actions of the police and the suspect after he allegedly assaulted a staff member at Bird Arena.

James D. Howard (Courtesy: SEORJ)
James D. Howard (Courtesy: SEORJ)

James D. Howard, of Canfield, was charged with burglary and having weapons while under disability, both felony offenses, by Ohio University police, according to a news release. He is now also charged with burglary, according to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail database.

He is accused of assaulting an employee of Bird Arena, then travelling to Logan to purchase a firearm and ammunition.

Powers said the information about the incident is “concerning,” but reports of a campuswide threat were not part of the information included in the investigation. He also said Howard is presumed innocent unless he is convicted in court.

“…We have gathered no information so far to indicate Howard made any specific threats toward individuals or our campus in general,” the statement from Powers on Friday stated. “We must take care as a community to respond to this situation based on what actually happened, not what might have happened.”

Police have interviewed Howard about the incident, but they say a motive hasn’t been established.

Howard reportedly withdrew from classes at OU before going to the arena, and was a former member of the OU Hockey Team. Powers told WOUB in an interview on Wednesday that it is believed Howard was looking for a staff member, when he entered the arena shortly before noon on Monday, but the employee that was assaulted was not that person.

Police received information from the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office that Howard had attempted to buy a gun.

“A gun shop in Logan refused to sell him a gun, but he was able to buy a rifle from a store in Athens,” Powers said in his most recent statement. “He then returned to Logan, where he was arrested on our warrants by the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office.”

The Hocking County Sheriff’s Office said they received a phone call from a local gun store in Logan, according to a news release posted to their Facebook.

“The owner advised that a male came in to purchase a firearm and was making statements that made the owner question his mental stability and the reason for purchasing the firearm,” the release stated.

Howard’s bond was raised to $125,000 on Thursday at the request of the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, and he was banned from Ohio University’s campus as a condition of his bond.

“The Division of Student Affairs has also served Howard with an administrative ban from campus,” the release from Powers stated.

The police chief also provided the community with resources including the Counseling and Psychological Services if university members might need them as a result of the incident.

“This incident has been unsettling for our entire community, especially those who encountered Howard on Monday or have a past connection with him,” Powers wrote.

He emphasized that the university has “robust processes” in place to safeguard the community.

“In this case, our processes worked, and it is possible that a tragic event was averted,” he said.