Suspect arrested after racist Yik Yak threats at University of Missouri

One suspect was arrested following an investigation into anonymous online threats at the University of Missouri.

(Mark Schierbecker via AP)
In this Nov. 9, 2015 frame from video provided by Mark Schierbecker, Melissa Click, right, an assistant professor in Missouri's communications department, confronts Schierbecker and later calls for "muscle" to help remove him from the protest area in Columbia, Mo. Protesters credited with helping oust the University of Missouri System's president and the head of its flagship campus welcomed reporters to cover their demonstrations Tuesday, a day after a videotaped clash between some protesters and a student photographer drew media condemnation as an affront to the free press.

A suspect accused of using social media to threaten black students and faculty at the University of Missouri has been arrested, campus police said Wednesday.

The university said it has stepped up security and is investigating all threats posted online following a semester of racial tensions on the Columbia, Mo., campus that led to the resignations of two top university administrators this week.

A post Tuesday night on the college's website said campus police are "aware of social media threats" and are investigating. The university's statement didn't elaborate, but it followed at least two users wrote threats on the anonymous location-based messaging app Yik Yak.

University of Missouri police have identified the man arrested for allegedly making the  threats as 19-year-old Hunter M. Park, AP reports.

One user, who police said is now in custody, threatened to "shoot every black person I see" using, among other channels, Yik Yak.

MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said on Twitter that the suspect had used "multiple accounts" to threaten the campus. "He was never physically near the campus," reported USA Today.

Shortly after the arrest was announced, Mr. Loftin tweeted that class would continue as usual on Wednesday "with increased security."

Another post said: "Some of you are alright. Don't go to campus tomorrow." The message appeared to mimic another post on the website 4chan — a forum where racism and misogyny are commonplace — preceding the shooting rampage at an Oregon community college in October.

The posts were widely shared online and published by local media, and follow the resignations Monday of the university system's president and the Columbia campus' chancellor after student protests over the university's handling of complaints about racism.

The quad that has been host to sit-ins and rallies was empty Tuesday night and only a handful of students were seen walking around campus. Police officers from the campus department and city of Columbia were on patrol.

Campus police Capt. Brian Weimer told The Associated Press additional officers were already on campus before the university learned of the threats. University police were working with other state and local agencies to ensure the campus was secure, he said.

Earlier this month, two other college campuses were put on high alert based on threats posted to Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app which critics have called a “safe place to say unsafe things.” A Fresno State University freshman was arrested for posting online that he would open fire on the California campus.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spent a good part of Tuesday investigating an ultimately baseless threat made on Yik Yak. 

Yik Yak’s founders have been willing to ignore the app's confidentiality agreement to assist law enforcement to identify those who make criminal threats, The Christian Science Monitor previously reported.

In the wake of this week's events at the University of Missouri, a new position of interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity on the Columbia campus has been created, and Chuck Henson, associate dean for academic affairs and trial practice at the law school was named to the role Tuesday.

The university announced plans for similar positions for the system's other three campuses. The school also has plans to provide diversity training to all new students beginning in January, and the system's governing board has pledged a review of its policies, increased support for victims of discrimination and more diverse faculty.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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