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Online Shooting Threat Shuts Down U. of Chicago, Leads to Arrest

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 01, 2015 10:59 AM

Over the weekend, University of Illinois Chicago engineering student Jabari Dean took to the comments section of a hip hop culture website and threatened to shoot students and staff at the University of Chicago. That threat led the FBI to close the school's campus Monday, and led to Dean's arrest the same day.

It's a reminder that law enforcement takes online threats seriously, especially when they involve campus shootings.

A Credible Threat

Dean's threat, while allegedly buried in deep in a comment thread, was chillingly specific:

This is my only warning. At 10AM Monday morning, I'm going to the campus quad of the University of Chicago. I will be armed with an M-4 carbine and two desert eagles, all fully loaded. I will execute approximately 16 white male students and or staff, which is the same number of time McDonald was killed. I will then die killing any number of white policeman in the process. This is not a joke. I am to do my part and rid the world of white devils. I expect you do the same.

(The reference to "McDonald" is apparently to Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a police officer last year.)

The threat was sent to the FBI, who alerted the university and tracked down Dean. Dean allegedly admitted to posting the threat, and then taking it down. Dean was arrested and charged with transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.

Campus Gun Violence Online and IRL

While federal agents claim Dean didn't have the weapons necessary to carry out his threat, the case highlights two areas of concern for law enforcement. First, online threats are taken seriously and can get you arrested. If a court determines that what you say online is a "true threat," an online rant can lead to a criminal conviction.

Second, in this day and age, threats concerning shootings on a campus are not going to be taken lightly. There have been 23 shootings on college campuses in 2015 alone, claiming 18 lives.

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