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A man with a machete entered Van Pelt Library around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and was promptly arrested. He was taken into custody on the fourth floor of the library and had a box cutter, machete and stolen ID card in his possession.

Around 11:25 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a Penn employee spotted the man walking near 34th and Walnut streets with what appeared to be a knife. The man was homeless, about 5’9” tall and between 35 and 40 years old, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

After trailing the man from a safe distance and seeing him enter Van Pelt, the employee called Lieutenant Gary Williams of Penn Police on his cell phone to alert him of the situation. At this point Williams alerted the PennComm center and officers were dispatched to the area.

At 11:32 a.m. PennComm initiated a UPenn Alert conference, in which Rush gave the order to evacuate the library, send out an alert and post information on the DPS website. She also gave the order for all available officers to assist in locating the suspect.

Some in the library were unaware that anything was occurring until the UPenn Alert.

Engineering graduate student Anjali Rajaratnam said she was unaware of any situation in the library until receiving the alert, but was surprised by how quickly and effectively it was handled.

“Good thing I was in the library when there’s a guy with a knife,” she said. “It’s just weird because it was someone who was able to get in.”

After the alert was sent at 11:36 a.m., officers conducted a search of the library.

By 11:41 a.m. the man was apprehended on the fourth floor of Van Pelt on its west side. The arresting officer found a machete, box cutter and stolen ID card belonging to an unknown woman. The suspect is now in the custody of Penn Police detectives and will be charged with numerous violations.

Minutes later, an all-clear message was sent out by DPS for a total time of 16 minutes from dispatch to apprehension.

Rush said that there are two ways to gain entrance to Van Pelt: with a Penn Card or through the library’s Visitor Management System. In this instance, the suspect gained entrance as a visitor, which requires presentation of a photo ID and a picture taken at the visitor’s desk. The man in this case used his own ID to access the library. 

Penn detectives were able to use the name given at the desk to find the suspect in JNET, Pennsylvania’s criminal database. His entry also had a photo, which was texted out to DPS officers and detectives. The responding and arresting officers were able to use both the photo from the desk, as well as the one from the database to identify the suspect within the library.

DPS said it perceived no further threat to the community after the suspect’s arrest.

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