Former student takes 28 hostages at university

Thursday, February 14, 2002

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Necole Arrigo's class at Fairfield University was discussing the concept of time when a confused-looking young man stumbled into the room with what he claimed was a bomb.

The next few hours would seem like an eternity.

Patrick Arbelo, 24, a legally blind 2001 graduate of the Roman Catholic university, announced to the class that he was a member of "The National United Federalist Socialist Party." And he was holding a box with a wire sticking out of it.

The man also had a knife early in the ordeal, hostages said.

He ordered the students to put their hands on their heads. He told them to toss their book bags out of the classroom and tape up the windows. And the man gave what Arrigo called a "modern-day Nazi statement."

The standoff ended seven hours later when the last of the 28 hostages were released and a jittery Arbelo gave up without a struggle. No one was injured. Police said Wednesday that the box did not contain a bomb.

"We didn't think that it was a joke, but we thought it might be some sort of drill," Arrigo said in an interview Wednesday, when classes resumed. "Then we noticed the teacher was very nervous."

Arbelo was arraigned Wednesday on 28 counts of kidnapping. Bail was set at $1 million, and the judge also ordered a psychiatric exam.

Arbelo's lawyer, William Neary, had no comment.

Arrigo, a 19-year-old sophomore from Boston, had seen a young man in the corridor of Canisius Hall on Tuesday, a few minutes before the "Voices of Medieval Women" religious-studies class, and he looked out of place.

The class' 27 students and professor were discussing the difference between normal time and the way time seems at peak moments of your life when the same man walked in.

"It was weird. The first 45 minutes was really scary," Arrigo said. "He had no idea what he was doing."

One student was able to signal for help.

Fairfield University, which has about 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students, is about 50 miles from New York City.

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