About a week after Patrick Dai ’24 was placed into custody for posting antisemitic threats on an online Cornell forum, including one that threatened a mass shooting at the University’s kosher dining hall, his mother Bing Liu described his persistent mental health struggles in an interview with Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle.
Liu said that Dai’s actions may have been influenced by his use of medications to address serious depression and anxiety. His mother told the paper that her son would frequently return to their house in Pittsford, New York during the weekends due to his “worsening depression” and that he was home on the weekend the threats were posted online. She drove him back to campus on Monday, Oct. 30, the same day that Gov. Kathy Hochul visited campus to condemn the threats and assure students that the law enforcement would find the perpetrator promptly.
Liu referenced a now-deleted post titled “I am sorry it was my fault alone” posted on the evening of Oct. 29. Federal prosecutors did not identify this post as belonging to Dai in court documents, but Dai’s mother said his defense team revealed the post to her in a package of evidence after Dai’s initial court appearance last Wednesday. According to Liu, the language included in the post sounded more like her son.
“Apologies. There is no room for divisive statements in person or online,” the post stated. “Shameful, calling for violence against people solely because of a cruel war a thousand miles away. Even more shameful because there is no excuse for the targeting of innocent civilians, much less my classmates.”
The post continued: “I spent a few hours reflecting alone today. I asked myself ‘What could have led me up to this point?’ … ‘If I had gotten more mental counseling would it have been better?’ But there is no excuse. No amount of depression or loneliness or isolation is an excuse for terror or terroristic threats.”
The Sun was unable to verify if the apology post was written by Dai. The federal criminal complaint against Dai filed on Tuesday, Oct. 31 referenced 10 antisemitic posts but did not identify the apology message as belonging to Dai.
All posts referenced in the federal complaint, however, were written prior to the apology post, with the last cited post from 3:16 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29. The forum used to spread these messages, Greekrank, does not require a login and all messages are posted anonymously.
According to court documents, the IP information associated with multiple antisemitic posts from Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 were traced to Pittsford, while another post from Oct. 26 was traced to a different IP address that was geo-located to Ithaca.
Dai’s mother told the Democrat and Chronicle that she texted her son on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and did not receive a response, the same day that Dai was questioned by the FBI over the threats and admitted to using the internet to post the threats on the platform. Liu drove back up to Cornell and could not locate her son, but she was told by police that he was safe and in questioning.
“He only told me that Patrick posted something online and wanted to hurt himself and other people,” Liu told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Liu revealed that she learned later that day after returning to Pittsford about her son’s allegations through a Daily Beast article sent to her by a friend. In the days following Dai’s arrest, Liu has dealt with death threats, photographers and journalists at her door.
Dai’s mother said that in neglecting to share Dai’s apology message, the media has not painted a full picture of her son, who now has “no future.”
While The Sun previously reported that Dai had taken two semesters off from the University in Spring 2022 and Spring 2023, Liu shared that Dai had taken a leave of absence for three semesters due to mental health struggles adjusting to college and the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Liu said that her son has served as her support system, especially in her recent battle with cancer and while her husband works overseas at Tianjin University in China.
Liu also revealed that their Pittsford home contains a Star of David medallion that she brought home from Israel in 2000 and that she had not known her son to show any animosity towards Jewish people in the past, including in friendships he had with other students.
An FBI raid of Dai’s apartment did not yield any weapons, though law enforcement did seize a shotgun from his family’s Pittsford house that Liu said she purchased for self-defense and has never used.
At Dai’s initial court appearance, his public defender told the court that Dai waived his right to a timely detention hearing, making him ineligible for bail and leading to his immediate detention in a Broome County jail. However, Dai’s new representation under public defender Lisa Peebles requested to have a detention hearing in which bail will be discussed, which is set for Thursday, Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. Dai has also waived his right to a preliminary hearing that was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 15.