Deadly threats targeting U prompts officials to urge students, most employees to stay off campus

Law enforcement in western Minnesota said it warned the University of Minnesota that one of its residents was threatening to come to the Twin Cities campus Thursday and kill students.

In response, the school sent out an emergency alert around 7:20 a.m. that its police were joining with other agencies to have additional officers on campus, which is currently between semesters and far less busy than usual.

A second alert soon afterward said that all campus operations will proceed normally, but employees were encouraged to work remotely. Students initially did not receive the same direction to avoid campus. Also, the alert noted, all buildings are accessible only by pass card.

However, university officials reconsidered and shortly after 10 a.m. included that students also should not come to campus.

“Based on their updates and a changing timeline, all employees who are deemed non-essential or non-critical are asked to work from home after checking in with their supervisor,” the latest notice read. “Students and all others are encouraged to stay clear of campus until this situation is resolved.”

Chippewa County Sheriff Derek Olson said the man, who is a former mayor of a small town in his county and still lives there, made a flurry of threatening posts on Facebook that started Wednesday. The Sheriff’s Office then notified the university of the postings.

Olson added he has deputies “staged at the [man’s] residence” should he show up there. The sheriff said relatives of the man are at the home as well.

“Public Safety has received a specific threat to shoot persons on the TC campus …” the initial notice read.

The alert identified the suspected sender by name and described him as 41 years old, 6 feet tall, 195 pounds and having brown hair and hazel eyes. The alert did not disclose his ethnicity. Olson also identified the man by name and added that he is white.

The Star Tribune is not reporting his name at this stage, because he has yet to be charged in connection with this allegation.

The notice did not offer any specifics about the threat or how it was communicated, but Olson told the Star Tribune that the suspect went on an hours long threat-filled rant on his landscape company’s Facebook page. Some of the postings included a specific family as an intended target.

“Here we go AMERICA,” the last of his many postings read. “I am heading out from watson Mn to the U of M Minneapolis mn to start killing kids. … if I can’t get the USA military to [come] talk to me face to face then I’m going for it to try defend your freedom America. … I may have been played … on this brain reading technology but today I find out for sure.”


A previous posting from the man also made a threat against Iranian students, saying, “If this government don’t have the total lock down of ALL university’s of Minnesota by this morning sun up watch out PARENTS … Kids will die for real amongst them u of m students.”

Other postings from the man made explicit threats to Sheriff Olson, and Chippewa County judges Thomas Van Hon and Keith Helgeson. In 2016, Van Hon ordered the man civilly committed for six months as mentally ill and chemically dependent.

Court records show that the man has a criminal history in Minnesota that includes convictions for burglary, theft, drunken driving and illicit drug possession.

University spokesman Jake Ricker said the decision to allow students to stay on campus was made because “our spring 2024 semester starts on Tuesday, so there are currently few students on campus.”

Otherwise, encouraging staff and faculty to work remotely “was done out of an abundance of caution,” Ricker said. “We are in a much better position to transition seamlessly to remote work since our experiences with the COVID pandemic.”

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