A Penn State student learned an important lesson on Monday: Virtual words can have real-life consequences.
Jong Seong Shim, 20, of Tinton Falls, N.J., was charged with misdemeanor counts of terroristic threats with intent to terrorize another, terroristic threats to cause serious public inconvenience and disorderly conduct. He was arraigned in front of District Judge Tom Jordan in Centre Hall around 10:30 a.m. Monday.
He was placed in Centre County Correctional Facility, unable to post his $100,000 bond.
Shim’s charges stem from threats he posted on the social media platform Yik Yak on Saturday, in which he said he would “shoot everyone” in the HUB-Robeson Center at noon Monday, claiming he had multiple magazines of ammunition for an AR-15 weapon.
Police found Shim with the help of people who took screen shots of the threat.
“We are grateful to our very alert and diligent students who first discovered this threat and raised their concerns with police,” said Steve Shelow, Penn State’s assistant vice president for police and public safety. “It is quick reporting by observers and strong cooperation among law enforcement agencies that allowed us to move swiftly to identify and apprehend the suspect.”
According to the affidavit of probable cause, police contacted the Yik Yak administration and were able to find that the coordinates for the post originated at 201 Vairo Blvd., Building G or H at the Lions Crossing apartments. Using other posts, they were able to determine that Shim was the poster.
Upon arrest, no weapons were found. University Police Chief Tyrone Parham said in a press conference Monday that he could not speak to whether or not Shim had any weapons registered in his name.
When arrested, Shim admitted to making the post and said the incident was a prank, according to court documents.
Parham said all such threats are taken seriously.
At Penn State, the idea of a shooting at the HUB is not something that is taken lightly.
It has been 18 years since Melanie Spalla, 19, of Altoona, was killed when Jillian Robbins, 19, took five shots with a rifle on the building’s lawn on Sept. 17, 1996. Nicholas Mensah, 22, of Philadelphia, was injured.
Senior Brendon Malovrh, of Downingtown, ended the shooting by tackling Robbins and disarming her. Robbins stabbed herself in the leg during the struggle. Malovrh saved her life, too, with a tourniquet.
Robbins is now an inmate at Muncy state prison after pleading guilty in 1998. She was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
“Threats to do violence are not a joke,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
“Authorities take such threats seriously until carefully analyzed and discounted. This behavior wastes resources and cause unjustified fear, particularly when aimed at a university that endured a campus shooting in 1996. I am mystified as to how this has become nonchalant behavior or is mistaken for a joke. People need to think before they act.”
“I can speak in general terms and say that crimes of this nature are taken very seriously and the well-being and safety of the entire campus will be considered in any decision that is made,” said Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers. “His consequences from being charged criminally will have the largest impact on his life and his attendance at Penn State.”