A Cornell University student was charged on Tuesday in connection to the antisemitic threats posted online over the weekend, including one that threatened a mass shooting at 104 West, the home of the Center for Jewish Living and the University’s kosher dining hall, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in a press release.
Patrick Dai ’24, an engineering student, was arrested on Tuesday on charges of posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications. The charge filed against Dai carries a maximum term of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to three years. He is set to appear before a judge on Wednesday in federal court in Syracuse, New York before a United States Magistrate Judge.
Dai was interviewed by the FBI at the Cornell Police Department on Wednesday and admitted to posting the messages, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Michael Renn. The interview was audio and video recorded and Dai had been read his rights, Renn said in the affidavit.
In an interview with the New York Post, Dai’s father asserted that his son is innocent. “My son is in severe depression. He cannot control his emotion well due to the depression. No I don’t think he committed the crime.”
Dai took two semesters off from his studies — in Spring 2022 and Spring 2023 — due to mental health problems under the suggestion of a doctor, Dai’s father told The Post.
His father said Dai stopped communicating with his family around the time that the threats were posted online, according to The Post. “My wife called him or sent messages to him many times but got no answers. She was worrying that he may commit suicide and drove to his apartment to see what happened,” the father said.
The FBI, New York State Police, CUPD and Ithaca Police Department raided Dai’s apartment shortly before 6 p.m. at 317 Eddy St. on Tuesday, Oct. 31.
Raid witnesses reported the presence of armed FBI agents and plainclothes officers, who closed off a section of Eddy Street with four to five cars, one of which was unmarked, and one of which carried IPD and New York State Police insignia.
“I was napping and my neighbor, she was like, ‘Wake up, wake up, I think the FBI is on the street,’” said Pascale Zissu ’25, who was in a nearby apartment on Eddy Street at the time of the raid. “So we went to her apartment, looked out her window and I saw a guy in an FBI vest with a huge rifle. They were in one of those big black Chevy cars. That car was blocking off the street. All the way up at the other end of the street, there was another car like that and another guy with a big rifle like that. Then between, in the middle of all that, there were a bunch of other guys in FBI vests and camouflage outfits talking to what looked like Cornell police and Ithaca police.”
Alyssa Armenta ’24, who was in the apartment complex at the time of the raid, said FBI agents entered the building, but does not know if any evidence was seized.
“There were people outside and all of Eddy Street was lined up with cop cars and the FBI,” Armenta said. “I didn’t look outside, but there was clearly [people] walking upstairs and the FBI agents coming in and out. But that’s all I know.”
The University said they will continue to assist the police in a Tuesday night press release.
“We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We know that our campus community will continue to support one another in the days ahead,” said Joel Malina, the Vice President of University Relations. “Cornell Police will maintain its heightened security presence on campus as the university continues to focus on supporting the needs of our students, faculty and staff.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) announced that law enforcement identified a person of interest in connection to the weekend threats.
Update, Oct. 31, 9 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a statement from the University and details about his charges.
Update, Oct. 31, 11:57 p.m.: This article has been updated to state that Dai admitted to posting the threats in an interview with the FBI.
Update, Nov. 1, 12:41 a.m.: This article has been updated to include comments from Dai’s father, which were delivered in an interview with the New York Post.