Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Chico State was told of professor’s alleged threats before last week’s disclosure that he threatened a campus ‘shooting spree’

Holt Hall at Chico State.
Thomas Peele
Holt Hall at Chico State.

Just weeks after Chico State officials cleared professor David Stachura to return to work in October 2021 after he allegedly threatened to kill two colleagues, the university got new reports from faculty that he had also threatened a “shooting spree” in the biology department, EdSource has learned.

When Betsey Tamietti, a lecturer, last week revealed that Stachura threatened to shoot up the department, officials already had been told about that threat. She and two professors had previously reported Stachura’s threats of using a weapon against his colleagues.

A former member of the department said Sunday she reported on Nov. 5, 2021, that Stachura had boasted of a possible shooting to Tamietti.

Tamietti first revealed the threat publicly last week at an online campus meeting with more than 900 attendees.

On Sunday, Cawa Tran, a professor who has since left the university, said she’d learned of the alleged threat to Tamietti and reported it to Dean David Hassenzahl of the College of Natural Sciences on Nov. 5, 2021. Another professor reported the same threat to the dean a day or two later, Tran said. Tamietti said Sunday she reported the threat to Hassenzahl about three months after the others. She declined to elaborate.

It is not known what the university did with those reports, but President Gayle Hutchinson on Dec. 9 suspended Stachura, saying the university planned to investigate new information that had surfaced at the campuswide meetings.

Revelations about the reporting of the threats mean Chico State officials knew of Tamietti’s allegations more than a year before EdSource reported this month that Stachura had threatened to kill two professors who had cooperated in an investigation that determined he was having an affair with a graduate student he supervised.

EdSource reported on Dec. 8 that in July 2021, Stachura’s estranged wife told a judge in a request for a restraining order against him that he had told her he wanted to kill the two colleagues.

The statements of Tran and Tamietti lay out, for the first time publicly, the timeline of who in the university’s administration knew of the alleged threats that Tamietti revealed last week when she said Stachura told her that ‘”if I wanted you all dead, you’d be dead. I am a doer.'” She also said he told her: “’If I do go on a shooting spree, maybe I’ll pass your office. I am not sure.’” She said he also told her to remain silent about what he said.

Tran said Sunday that when she learned of that threat she reported it immediately.

“I heard about this. I called up Dean Hassenzahl and I reported it. I believe I was the first one,” Tran said. She is now a professor at the University of San Diego. Tran said she and the others received “a really unsatisfactory response” to their reports. She said Hassenzahl passed the information on to the then-head of the school’s Office of Academic Personnel, Brian Oppy.

Neither Oppy nor Hassenzahl responded to messages Sunday. Neither did a university spokesman.

Tamietti, Tran said, “was told that because she was staff, she had to continue working with (Stachura) and continue prepping for his courses. They really forced us all to continue working with him. This really impacted staff the most. We were all scared. We were getting silenced.”

Tamietti said a week ago that she was a confidant of Stachura’s and that he spoke to her of violence. She said he had bought a weapon and hollow-point bullets and spoke of committing a mass shooting on campus.

Stachura did not return a message Sunday. He has repeatedly denied making the threats his wife reported to the court. He has also denied the affair with the student.

On his return from campus last fall, Stachura met with members of the biology department via Zoom on Oct. 22, 2021, saying “it’s been a weird first week,” according to a partial transcript EdSource obtained.

“The last few years have been really rough on me. And there’s been some things that have been said inside and outside of work that are just not true about me,” he said. “The thing I really want you guys to know is that I’m not a threat to anyone. I just want to, I just want to teach. I just want to do my research,” he said, according to the transcript.

Stachura received no discipline for the threat allegations against the two professors and was given a one-third of a semester loss of pay for the alleged student affair. He was later promoted to full professor with tenure and was named Chico State’s “outstanding professor” of the 2020-2021 academic year. The award was rescinded last week.

News of the threats and Stachura’s affair created an uproar on campus with students and faculty expressing outrage that the campus had not been notified of Stachura’s threats. Officials said they could not reveal details about the case because of their duty to protect Stachura’s privacy.

Provost Debra Larson, who approved Stachura’s light punishment for the affair, resigned Friday. Stachura was suspended Dec. 9. Chico State President Hutchinson has apologized, and the Academic Senate has asked the California State University for an independent investigation and demanded Stachura’s immediate resignation.

Do you count on EdSource’s reporting daily? Make your donation today to our year end fundraising campaign by Dec. 31st to keep us going without a paywall or ads.

Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter at EdSource. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter.
EdSource believes that access to a quality education is an important right of all children. We further believe that an informed, involved public is necessary to strengthen California’s schools for the benefit of the state’s children, its civic life, and its economy.