Case Report: Tyler Bergeron
Eight months later: A deeper look into ODU’s shooting threat
-by Elizabeth Rubi-Murek
On April 10, 2013, Old Dominion University campus police arrested Tyler Bergeron, who was a sophomore at the time, on charges of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism on ODU campus. Bergeron’s dorm-mate claimed that, in March of 2013, Tyler had threatened via internet messaging that he was “gonna start shooting people…at school.” On January 21, 2014, he will face a jury trial; if convicted to the full extent of the felony charges Bergeron could face twenty years to life in prison.
Today, Bergeron’s Facebook page shows no evidence that he would be capable of the “Acts of Terrorism” charge he faces in Norfolk circuit court on January 21. Instead, his page looks like any other young musician’s page– over 500 friends, selfies, a blurb about his birthplace in Australia, and numerous status updates.
It even connects to his Facebook fan page, “Tyler Bergeron’s Friends,” which has video uploads of his music featuring reggae-themed, easy-going, optimistic lyrics. Here at ODU, one friend described him as a “calm, stereotypical pothead” that played “acoustic guitar”.
Nathalie Simko, now a senior at ODU, attended a Communications course with Bergeron at in the spring semester of 2013 and said he often came into class casually dressed, sometimes brought his guitar, was very involved in classroom discussions, and always appeared clean cut.
Though Simko said she could tell that Bergeron “smoked [weed] and did drugs,” she never had a reason to think negatively of him and states that he was “a really nice guy” with several friends in the class. Simko even took a picture of Bergeron with the Communications professor and emailed it to him as a favor.
However, at least from Simko’s point of view, one day Bergeron’s behavior took a turn. In late March, Bergeron arrived late to class and Simko noted that his “beard [was] poorly shaven,” and that he was wearing basketball shorts and a torn t-shirt. According to Simko, his behavior was odd in that he was completely emotionally detached and did not engage as he did usually.
After the class finished, Simko headed to the Batten Arts and Letters building where she encountered Bergeron again. While sitting in the lounge area, Simko saw Bergeron sitting down and said that he was mumbling and drawing on himself. He then noticed her and began to approach her, dragging his feet and keeping the “top half of his body motionless.” He came within inches of her face and asked her if she was familiar with the Aboriginals—the native people of Australia. Simko was confused but noted that he was shaking.
She says that Bergeron then told her about how ‘the Aboriginals believe when you take a picture of someone you steal their soul.” Simko says she felt particularly threatened by these comments because she had taken his picture only a few days earlier, so she immediately fled the lounge and took refuge in the bathroom, where she called her boyfriend’s mom who encouraged her to report the incident.
Smko says that is relieved that she reported Tyler’s behavior. In regards to any kind of similar incident, Simko believes that if people “ever have a gut feeling” about a threatening situation they should report it. “It may sound stupid but you could literally save people.”
See also: Tyler Bergeron– The other side