A Texas college student has been indicted on a charge of bias intimidation for allegedly calling for “all the Black people” in a New Jersey high school to be shot.
Although Kenneth Petersen, 21, is from Stephenville, Tex., he was somehow able to gain access to a group chat in a GroupMe messaging app started by students at Northern Burlington Regional High School in May 2018. Once in the chat, Petersen suggested the students shoot all black people as a senior prank, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office announced in a press release.
The New Jersey teenager who started the chat did not know Petersen and upon receiving his comment, she notified her teacher, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina. When school officials alerted police, officers conducted an investigation in Mansfield Township, N.J. initially looking for a local suspect.
However, investigators later learned that the comment was sent by someone outside of New Jersey and that nobody at the school faced danger leading up to the school’s graduation. But police weren’t taking chances — they fortified their presence at the ceremony, Coffina said.
Petersen was arrested last September and indicted on Jan. 9 fon one count of bias intimidation, but The New York Post says prosecutors are now considering upgraded charges.
“There can never be any tolerance for racially-motivated threats like this and, especially during recent times when we have seen threats escalate to actual acts of violence, law enforcement must respond with the utmost seriousness,” Coffina said in the news release “You cannot hide behind a cellphone halfway across the country while spewing such hatred.”
It’s unknown why Petersen targeted the high school group chat since he lived halfway across the country. It was also unknown what additional charges might be added.
The investigation was conducted by multiple city, state and federal law enforcement agencies, along with the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.