Oxford Police charged a former member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity with aggravated menacing on Wednesday, May 1, after he sent other members of the fraternity texts threatening to “burn down” and “shoot up” the fraternity house.
Cameron Wallace, 21, a junior professional writing major at Miami, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Butler County Area Court. He was released on bond, pending a continuation of his arraignment until June 6.
According to police, four fraternity members came forward to report Wallace for harassment on April 27 and 28. Three of the members told Oxford Police about an incident on April 20 where Wallace entered another member’s room and started “kicking and choking him” until other members removed Wallace from the house, according to the police report. During the altercation, Wallace “made death threats” to the member whom he had beaten up and later sent the text messages detailing his “hit list” and the fact that he wanted to burn down the fraternity house.
The witnesses, including fraternity president Billy Shand, reported that Wallace “made threats of revenge” against the fraternity if they took action against him and even said he would go straight to the university to report allegations about “sexual assaults and hazing” if they kicked him out of the fraternity.
Six days later, Wallace called the fourth witness, Joseph Patracuollo, to tell him that Wallace wanted to harm himself and hurt four specific members of the fraternity. According to the police report, Wallace said that one member “would be dead” and specifically threatened this member several times during the conversation. Wallace made sure to reassure Patracuollo, however, that Patracuollo “would be safe when (Wallace) came to shoot up the house.”
Patracuollo spoke to OPD on April 28 about the phone conversation. A warrant for Wallace was issued on April 30 and served on May 1. He was charged with aggravated menacing, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Oxford Police Lt. Lara Fening said Friday that sometimes aggravated menacing charges can be de-escalated after the emotions of the incident die down, but probably not for this case.
“The scope of it is a little more broad, affecting more people, and with the climate nowadays and the worries about active shooters, if you have any notion that this kind of thing might happen, you need to report it and act on it,” she said.
Whether Wallace was serious about his threats or intended for them to be a joke, in the context of the current gun violence climate, Fening thinks people can never be too careful.
“The U.N.C. (University of North Carolina) one … that’s an unfortunate current reminder,” Fening said, speaking of a shooting on that campus on April 30. “Nobody wants this on their conscience, that they didn’t do anything about it. Each person involved in a process like this wants to make sure they do everything they can do, that they took their part in trying to stop what could've been a really tragic incident.”
Wallace’s current mental health condition may or may not have fueled this incident. According to the incident report, the three witnesses said that over the past semester “Wallace’s behavior had become concerning” and he “had made suicidal statements and injured himself by cutting recently.”
An official diagnosis on Wallace has not been released, but it wouldn’t surprise Fening if that were the case.
“We’ve had increased calls … involving mental health issues over the last several years, so to us it’s not surprising to see mental health have a potential part of an unusual incident like this,” Fening said.
“If this person does have mental health issues, it's good to go to court because they can start the process to get some help. Nobody wants this to happen again, and I’m sure the family of this particular person arrested doesn’t ever want this to ever happen again. And if he does have mental health issues, getting it moderated or regulated would be a blessing. If it was driven by a mental health issue then we sure want to get that routed to the right people.”