Idaho Police Further Clarify What They Mean By ‘Targeted Attack’ In Murder Of Four University Of Idaho Students
The Moscow Police Department, Idaho State Police and University of Idaho addressed news media on Wednesday for the first time since the mass stabbings.
Angela Palermo/Idaho StatesmanTribune News Service via Getty Images

Police in Moscow, Idaho, on Thursday once again backtracked on whether the murder of four University of Idaho students was a “targeted attack.”

This time, however, police said they are unsure whether it was the students or the residence that was targeted.

“We remain consistent in our belief that this was a targeted attack, but investigators have not concluded if the target was the residence or if it was the occupants,” police said in a press release.

The clarification comes one day after the police department said it wasn’t sure if the murdered students were specifically targeted in the attack.

The Moscow Police Department responded Wednesday to a statement made by the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office which stated that “the suspect(s) specifically looked at this residence, and that one or more of the occupants were undoubtedly targeted.”

“We have spoken with the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office and identified this was a miscommunication,” the department said. “Detectives do not currently know if the residence or any occupants were specifically targeted but continue to investigate.”

That itself was a departure from the department’s previous statements indicating that the homicides were a “targeted” attack. It wasn’t the first time police have reversed course from prior statements.

When the homicides were first reported, police said in press releases that, in addition to being a targeted attack, there was no ongoing threat to the community. On November 16, however, Moscow Police Chief James Fry acknowledged that there may be a threat to the community since the police still did not have a person of interest connected to the slayings.

“We cannot say that there is no threat to the community,” Fry said at a press conference. “There is a threat out there, possibly.”

That same day, Fry insisted the attack was targeted before police appeared to pivot and say they were unsure if the attacks were targeted.

It’s been more than two weeks since Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Madison Mogen, 21, were murdered in their off-campus residence – and police still have not named any suspects or found the murder weapon.

Authorities have also said they do not believe that the two surviving roommates – who apparently did not hear the killings take place – are involved in the crimes. They also do not believe a man observed in surveillance video outside a food truck visited by Goncalves and Mogen the night of the murders was involved, nor was a driver who drove the women home.

One week after the slayings, law enforcement provided more information about the killings and asked the public for “context to the events and people involved in these murders.”

“Anyone who observed notable behavior, has video surveillance, or can provide relevant information is asked to call the Tip Line,” the police said in a press release.

Police are looking for any outside surveillance video taken between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on November 13 – the morning of the murders – from local businesses and residences in the area. They’ve requested all video, even if there doesn’t appear to be any motion in them. Police are also asking for any tips or surveillance video about “any observed suspicious behavior” on the night of the murders, particularly in the areas where the students had been.

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