federal authorities apprehended a Cornell University student earlier this week on charges of making severe threats against the university’s Jewish community through an online platform unconnected to the Ivy League institution in upstate New York.
The arrested individual, identified as 21-year-old Patrick Dai, a junior at Cornell hailing from Pittsford, New York, now faces federal charges for allegedly using interstate communications to post threats of violence, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of New York. Dai is accused of disseminating menacing messages on an online discussion forum related to Cornell, which included disturbing calls for harm to Jewish individuals and even a potential mass shooting at the 104 West building, a Cornell University dining hall primarily serving Kosher diets, located adjacent to the Cornell Jewish Center.
Among the alarming posts attributed to Dai, authorities highlight threats to “stab” and “slit the throat” of Jewish males on campus, as well as plans to commit heinous acts against Jewish females and infants. Furthermore, Dai allegedly threatened to bring an assault rifle to campus with intentions to harm individuals he referred to as “pig Jews.”
If convicted, Dai could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. In response to these threats, Jewish students at Cornell University, situated in Ithaca, New York, were placed on high alert following the circulation of at least six screenshots reportedly taken from the Greek Rank website, featuring online threats from anonymous users. These threats included statements such as “‘israel’ deserved 10/7” and “eliminate Jewish living from Cornell campus,” along with one user who claimed they would “shoot up 104 West.”
Cornell University officials confirmed on Tuesday that a suspect had been identified and taken into custody in connection with these threats. Joel M. Malina, the vice president for university relations at Cornell University, expressed shock at the situation and condemned the antisemitic threats, asserting that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He emphasized the university’s commitment to supporting its campus community in these challenging times, with Cornell Police maintaining heightened security measures on campus.
These threats against the Jewish community in the United States come at a time when tensions have escalated due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, now entering its fourth week. This conflict has given rise to a surge in antisemitism, fueled by supporters of Hamas. Preliminary data from the Anti-Defamation League reported a nearly 400% increase in incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism, and assault since the October 7th incident in which Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,400 people.
During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged that the Jewish community has been a target for terrorists from various backgrounds, including “homegrown violent extremists” and “foreign terrorist organizations.” He noted that antisemitic threats have reached “historic levels” within the United States.
The FBI became involved in the Cornell University case after the school administration reported a potential hate crime, with a spokesperson for the agency emphasizing the seriousness of such threats and the collaboration between law enforcement agencies at all levels to assess their credibility, share information, and take appropriate investigative actions. The public was encouraged to report any suspicious activities to law enforcement, as the safety of communities remains paramount, and violence motivated by hate and extremism will not be tolerated.