(Reuters) - A Missouri man was sentenced to probation for threatening African Americans on social media including a pledge to “shoot every black person I see” after the University of Missouri president resigned during protests over his handling of reported racial abuse, a prosecutor said on Thursday.
Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane sentenced Hunter Park, 20, to five years probation after he made the threats in November, Boone County assistant prosecuting attorney Brouck Jacobs said.
Prosecutors were satisfied with the length of the sentence, even though they originally recommended three years in prison for Park, who is from the St. Louis suburb of Lake St. Louis.
“You can’t make terrorist threats online,” Jacobs said in an interview. “If you do, there’s a strict consequence for that.”
The charge is a felony, he said.
Park’s attorney, Jeffrey Hilbrenner, said he felt probation was appropriate.
“Hunter is a good person who made a terrible mistake, posted some terrible stuff on the Internet,” Hilbrenner said, “but, the Hunter I’ve gotten to know is a really good person.”
Unrest at the university, widely known as “Mizzou,” started last September after reports of racial abuse on campus led to student demonstrations over what they called the administration’s weak response. The unrest came to a head in November when the university’s football players refused to practice or play until Tim Wolfe, then president, stepped down.
Two days after Wolfe’s exit in early November, police arrested Park in Rolla, Missouri, about 95 miles south of Columbia, where the main University of Missouri campus is located. He was a sophomore studying computer science at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, which is part of the University of Missouri system.
Police said Park’s threats had circulated on social media, including Yik Yak, where an anonymous post tagged ‘Columbia’ had read, “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.”
“Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow,” another post read. “We’re waiting for you at the parking lots,” read a third post. “We will kill you.”
Reporting by Justin Madden in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio