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FBI Investigating Unconfirmed Death Threat Against Howard University Students

Photograph by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

The FBI and local authorities are investigating an apparent death threat against students at Howard University, a spokesman for the school says. The unconfirmed threat appeared on Twitter early Thursday in the form of an anonymous, racist rant seeking to connect the recent upheaval at the University of Missouri with Howard, the nation’s oldest historically black college or university.

The rant appears to have originated Wednesday on an internet discussion site. In it, the author claims to have returned to Maryland from Columbia, Missouri, where earlier this week Missouri students upset with their school’s tepid reactions to a string of racially motivated incidents prompted the resignations of top university administrators.

“I left MU yesterday because I couldn’t put up with it anymore,” the post, which is riddled with profanities and racial slurs, reads. “I go home to MD and what do I see? The same old shit.”

The message then states that any black people “left at Howard University after 10 tomorrow will be the first to go. … Sure the po po will take me down, but I’ll go out a hero knowing I made the world better.” The screed also suggests people heading toward nearby Metro stations would also be targeted.

We are aware of the online threat and have made appropriate notifications,” Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the FBI’s Washington field office, writes in an email. “We urge anyone who has information about the threat to contact the Metropolitan Police Department or the FBI.”

Classes and other functions at Howard are still ongoing, though the campus is under a state of heightened security, according to a school-wide email from the university’s president, Wayne Frederick.

“We are aware of the threat made against the university and its students and are working with campus, local, and federal law enforcement on this serious matter. This is an ongoing investigation,” he writes.

Police in Missouri yesterday arrested two college students for making death threats against black students in response to the events in Columbia.

UPDATE, 5:57 PM: In an interview with CNN, Frederick said Thursday afternoon the FBI first alerted Howard administrators to the threat late Wednesday night. Frederick told Wolf Blitzer he sees a direct connection between the demonstrations at Missouri and the threats made against Howard.

“Our students are very active and they stood in support of the students at Missouri University, which we also support,” Frederick said. “And we do see this as a growing national problem.”

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.