Saturday, October 31, 2020

Friends say student charged for terrorist threat hinted suicide

October 26, 2009

Although officials have remained mum on a formerly enrolled MSU student’s arrest for making a terrorist threat or false report of terrorism, some close to him have disclosed details about the events leading up to his arrest, including his statements regarding the need to commit suicide to avoid hurting others.

Zachariah M. Aslam had spoken of killing himself by jumping off of the Chemistry Building with explosives, but meant to ensure he died, not to hurt other people, a source close to him said.

“He looked very calm, just like any normal day because he was about to go eat dinner or play some pool. But he was talking about just all these methods of suicide and that he just had to kill himself,” the source said. “He hinted … (that) he felt like he had to kill himself in order to prevent that future of hurting more people.”

Others argue Aslam, who was arrested Oct. 20 after police were informed of a man making threats, is a “nice guy” who could not be capable of hurting anyone, and the charges stem from a misunderstanding.

Aslam, a 17-year-old from South Rockwood, Mich., was arraigned Friday in East Lansing’s 54-B District Court before Judge Richard Ball and is being held in Ingham County Jail on a $150,000 bond. According to the criminal complaint against Aslam, he threatened terrorism and communicated that threat to another person.

MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor referred questions regarding the case to Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III and would not comment further on the case.

Although some doubted Aslam would harm anyone, Dunnings said making the statements was enough to be charged.

Dunnings would not comment on the facts of the case. Aslam is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 8.

The source said Aslam wasn’t a bad person, but was changed after a “horrible” experience living two years in Pakistan. He had hinted about hurting others in the past. Aslam always was serious and was good at hiding things, the source said.

Others who knew Aslam described him as a friendly, honest and “very intelligent” person who talked to his mother on the phone almost nightly to ask about her day.

He had gone through a rough experience in the days leading up to the arrest after a misunderstanding with another student, and was uncharacteristically upset because of it, friend and accounting freshman Andrew Steward said.

“He kept talking about every time something happens, he puts everything stored away in this box in the back of his head — that’s what he called it ­— and this just broke it open,” Steward said. “That’s what he told me and he just needed to set things straight because he was really upset.”

Steward said Aslam, who had a bright future and goals, never would hurt anyone. Another friend, hospitality business freshman Stephanie Ly, said Aslam had such an immense “brain capacity” that he would express himself in ways that could be misunderstood. Both said Aslam might have said something he didn’t mean.

“If he was a bad person, we’d know,” Ly said. “We’re all his friends. … He had a future, he had goals, he was determined, he was in crew, he was just a normal kid on campus.”

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