Cornell student arrested in connection with antisemitic threats made against Cornell University’s Jewish community

A Cornell University junior was arrested and charged in connection with a series of antisemitic online threats made against Cornell University’s Jewish community, federal officials said Tuesday, two days after the messages surfaced.

Patrick Dai, 21, was arrested Tuesday on “a federal criminal complaint charging him with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications,” the US attorney’s office for New York’s northern district said.

Earlier Tuesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said a person of interest was in the custody of New York State Police for questioning.

“Public safety is my top priority,” the governor said, “and I’m committed to combatting hate and bias wherever it rears its ugly head.”

The criminal complaint alleges Dai posted threatening messages on the Cornell section of a discussion website, including threats to “shoot up” a mainly kosher dining hall on campus, the US attorney’s office said.

Dai could not be immediately reached for comment, and CNN could not identify an attorney for the defendant.

Cornell University will maintain heightened security on campus, said Joel M. Malina, vice president for university relations.

“Cornell University is grateful to the FBI for working so swiftly to identify and apprehend the suspect in this case, a Cornell student, who remains in custody,” Malina said.

“We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said.

The posts were created Sunday, Cornell University police have said.

“Evidence suggests the targeted locations were intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias,” university police said. Campus police increased patrols and added security for Jewish students and organizations.

The threats emerged amid a reported spike in antisemitic incidents as a war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas rages in the Middle East: The Anti-Defamation League has said antisemitic incidents in the US increased nearly 400% in the days after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, and FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a Senate hearing Tuesday that antisemitism was reaching “historic levels” in the United States.

Rising tensions have been particularly pronounced on college campuses. Students at many universities have engaged in protests while some administrators – like those at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania – grapple with acknowledging students’ wide-ranging concerns while fielding backlash from influential donors, demanding the schools take a clearer stance on the conflict.

There are about 3,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate Jewish students at Cornell, and they comprise about 22% of the student body, according to the school’s Hillel organization, which had warned students and staff Sunday evening to avoid 104 West “out of an abundance of caution.”

The threats spread fear and distress throughout Cornell’s Jewish community, according to senior Zoe Bernstein, the president of Cornellians for Israel, a campus organization that aims to provide community and educational events for students who have a connection to Israel.

“This is totally unprecedented in my life and the lives of, I would say, pretty much all of my peers,” said Bernstein. “It’s really, deeply troubling and upsetting.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Jessica Xing and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

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