COLUMBIA, Mo. (Reuters) – Three 19-year-old Missouri men have been charged with making terrorist threats on social media about shooting people at college campuses in the state, and two of them talked about targeting black people.
One of the three, Hunter M. Park, of Lake St. Louis, who allegedly made threats against the University of Missouri, was denied bond on Thursday, and court documents said he expressed a “deep interest” in a recent Oregon school massacre.
The others are Tyler Bradenberg, of St. Louis, and Connor Stottlemyre, a student at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, who police said were both charged on Thursday. Park and Stottlemyre are white, while Bradenberg’s race was not immediately known.
The threats were all made on social media, including on the messaging application Yik Yak, over the last three days, police said.
Park appeared in Boone County Circuit Court on Thursday days after two of the school’s top administrators resigned after protests over their handling of racial incidents at the main Columbia campus.
Police said Park’s threats had circulated on social media, including on Yik Yak, where an anonymous post tagged “Columbia” late on Tuesday read: “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.”
Park was arrested on Wednesday at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T) in Rolla, where he is a sophomore studying computer science. S&T is part of the University of Missouri System and Rolla is about 95 miles (153 km) south of Columbia.
Stottlemyre was charged on Thursday in Nodaway County Circuit Court with making terrorist threats, a felony. According to a criminal complaint, he posted a threat on Yik Yak on Wednesday saying: “I’m gonna shoot any black ppl tomorrow so be ready,” and “I love evil, I can’t wait for Northwest to make the news tomorrow.”
No bond has been set, pending an initial appearance scheduled for Nov. 17.
Bradenberg, a former S&T student, also was charged with making a terrorist threat after allegedly making an anonymous post on Yik Yak on Wednesday stating: “Im gonna shoot up this school,” according to an S&T statement.
It was not know if Bradenberg was in custody. Bradenberg used technology to make it appear as if the threat was coming from S&T, but was actually posted from St. Louis, S&T said.
Yik Yak allows people to anonymously create and view messages within a 10-mile radius.
THREATENING MESSAGES IN WASHINGTON
The University of Missouri turmoil has raised tensions on U.S. university campuses, where marches or walkouts have taken place this week as students protest what they see as school officials’ lenient approach to racial abuse. Hundreds of students on several U.S. campuses wore all-black clothing on Thursday in a show of solidarity.
Also on Thursday, messages were posted online threatening to murder students at the historically black college Howard University in Washington. Howard President Wayne Frederick said his school was working with law enforcement and had increased campus security.
“We do see this as a growing national problem,” Frederick told CNN.
OREGON SHOOTER’S WORDS
In Missouri, campus police described in court documents locating Park in his dormitory room in Rolla, where he acknowledged the threats were “inappropriate.”
Park admitted using a quote associated with the shooter at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, the documents said. That Oct. 1 massacre left 10 dead including the shooter.
In one threat, Park said: “Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow.” University of Missouri officer Dustin Heckmaster said that quote was believed to have originated with the Oregon shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer.
Court documents said police asked Park why he used that wording, and he replied: “I don’t know … deep interest.”
At Thursday’s bail hearing, Park appeared via video conference from jail, wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and pants. No plea was entered on his behalf.
His attorney, Jeffrey Hilbrenner, argued for a $10,000 bond, saying the investigation did not show Park had the capability or means to carry out the threat. Hilbrenner said Park had medical issues that were exacerbated by his jail stay, but did not describe them.
Boone County Circuit Judge Kimberly Shaw denied the request on bail after the prosecutor argued that Park was a threat to the community. Park’s felony review hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.
If convicted, Park faces up to seven years in jail, according to the Missouri General Assembly website.
The Columbia campus is 115 miles (185 km) west of Ferguson, Missouri, where a white policeman fatally shot an unarmed black teenager last year. Also on Thursday, Missouri named an African American alumnus, Mike Middleton, as interim president.
Sympathetic gatherings have taken place at Yale University, Ithaca College in New York, Smith College in Massachusetts and Claremont McKenna College in California. On Thursday in Virginia, more than two dozen black students at Virginia Commonwealth University occupied the president’s office asking for more black faculty members.
Students at a number of other U.S. schools, including Cornell University, American University in Washington, D.C., and New York University are posting online about “how to get the conversation going about race issues,” Raven Fowlkes-Witten, a junior at Smith College, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Anthony Romano, Madi Alexander and Lakshna Mehta in Columbia, Missouri, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Ian Simpson in Washington, Gary Robertson in Richmond, Virginia, and Melissa Fares in New York; Writing by Ben Klayman and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Matthew Lewis, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)