Court date set for former student in Southern Adventist University threat case

photo Hamilton County officers suit up on the Southern Adventist University campus Thursday during a lockdown.
photo James Gaines

A court date has been set for the former Southern Adventist University student whose alleged threats to use firearms and explosives at the small, private school in Collegedale caused a two-hour campus lockdown Thursday.

James Michael Gaines, 25, will go before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge David E. Bales on Feb. 6 on a charge of making false reports, which can be a felony with a minimum 3-year prison sentence.

Gaines was arrested by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and booked in jail Friday. He is no longer in custody. Gaines paid $250 -- 10 percent of his $2,500 bail -- to Carlos Bail Bonding to get out of jail.

Gaines hasn't been a student at Southern Adventist University since 2009, said Ingrid Skants, director of marketing and university relations Ingrid Skants said. He was a sports studies major, she said. He has a Nashville-area address, according to the sheriff's booking log.

Gaines was at Chattanooga State Community College Thursday when he reportedly made threats just after noon to use firearms and explosives on the Adventist university's campus, because he was upset about a delay in paperwork he wanted from the university, Collegedale police said.

Campus Safety department Lt. Josh Fraker ordered the first-ever, campuswide lockdown at the nearly 3,000-student school after hearing that Gaines was on his way to the university. Students were alerted of the lockdown by text, email, voicemail and an automated voice over the campus' fire alarm system. They were told to stay in their rooms and away from windows. Electronic locks were activated on lecture halls to prevent entry.

Police later said Gaines never set foot on campus.

At least three students on the fourth floor of Talge Hall, a men's dormitory, were hand-cuffed face-down by officers in SWAT-style gear armed with assault weapons.

"There was no reason or justification that these students be treated in this manner," wrote one commenter on the university's Facebook page, getting two thumbs up from other Facebook users. "Thursday's incident is what happens when you militarize local police. They start acting like they are in a war zone and every citizen is an enemy."

Another commenter wrote, "Better safe than sorry. Seems like the school and law enforcement did what they were supposed to do." That was near the top of the the comment thread, with 12 likes.

Contact Tim Omarzu at or 423-757-6651.