Man arrested in University of Missouri threats had ‘deep interest’ in Oregon mass shooting
The white college student arrested on suspicion of posting a social media threat to shoot black University of Missouri students expressed a “deep interest” in the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon, according to court documents.
Hunter Park, 19, of Lake St. Louis, Mo., told a police officer that the threat to “stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see” was “pretty much” just intended to rattle students, according to a probable cause statement from a University of Missouri police officer.
Park is suspected of making a terrorist threat, a class C felony, which can bring a sentence of up to seven years in prison. A University of Missouri police official said Park was not in possession of any weapons. His arraignment in Boone County court was set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday and he was being held without bond.
University of Missouri police received more than 50 phone calls about several posts on the Yik Yak anonymous messaging platform Tuesday night that concerned students and investigators.
One post said “Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow.” Those words were reminiscent of posts the gunman at Umpqua Community College is believed to have made shortly before killing nine people at the Roseburg, Ore., school and then killing himself on Oct. 1, court documents said.
University of Missouri campus police filed an emergency request with Yik Yak for the poster’s information and received a phone number belonging to Park that had been used to create the account, according to court documents.
Investigators then obtained a cellphone “ping” that located Park’s phone almost 100 miles away in Rolla, where he is a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology, a school in the University of Missouri system, according to the documents.
University of Missouri and Missouri S&T police found Park in his dorm room. Park admitted to an officer that the posts were “inappropriate,” the court documents said.
“I asked Hunter why he posted about shooting black students; he replied ‘I won’t get there ... so ... I don’t know,” University of Missouri Officer Dustin Heckmaster wrote. “I asked Hunter what he meant by the phrase ‘some of you are alright; don’t go to campus tomorrow.’ Hunter smiled and stated ‘I was quoting something.’ I asked if he was quoting the Umpqua shooting; he replied ‘mmhmm.’ I asked why he had quoted the phrase; Hunter replied ‘I don’t know I just ... deep interest.’”
On Thursday, the university’s governing board appointed a recently retired senior administrator as the system’s interim president. Michael Middleton, 68, was one of the first black graduates of the university’s law school and was a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division before joining the university law faculty in 1985.
But campus strife continued. Early Thursday morning a sign at the campus black culture center was vandalized.
The sign at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center appeared to be spray painted to cover up the word “black,” hours after student demonstrators held a march at the building to protest the racists threats.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this story said spray paint was used to cover up racist threats.
The sign was spray painted about 12:50 a.m., and police are reviewing surveillance footage from the area, university police said in a statement.
Freshman journalism student Isaac Jahns, 18, told the Los Angeles Times that he was walking home from a dining hall with three friends shortly before 1 a.m. when he heard someone scream near the black culture center.
“I heard a male voice scream out, ‘You black ..., you’re not welcome here!’” said Jahns, who is white.
When Jahns turned and looked toward the culture center, he said he saw a black woman sprinting away from the site toward a nearby parking garage. But he said he didn’t know if she had been the target of the racist comment.
The university’s black student government, the Legion of Black Collegians, responded defiantly early Thursday morning.
“We’re not afraid. You clearly are,” the group tweeted. “Stay strong Mizzou.”
A spokesman for the University of Missouri Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment on the sign vandalism.
Police previously said a threatening phone call had been made to the building Tuesday, but no evacuations were ordered. The building was also the site in 2010 where two white students dumped cotton balls on the lawn in what black students saw as a racist message. Two men were arrested in the incident and were convicted of littering.
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