FBI Uses Chicago Social Media Threat as Cautionary Tale to ‘Think Before You Post’

The “chilling firsthand account” of a Chicago college student that posted a threatening message on social media will serve as a warning to other users to “think before you post,” the FBI’s Chicago Field Office announced Thursday.

In 2015, Jabari Dean posted that he would execute 16 students or staff members at the University of Chicago on the campus quad and then die “killing any number of white policemen that I can in the process,” court records show. He was arrested several days later by the FBI and charged with a threat in interstate commerce.

The university canceled classes after the threat, which came on the heels of unrest and rising racial tensions over the Chicago police shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.

Dean deleted the post shortly after writing it, but it was reported to authorities by someone who saw it in New York, the FBI said.

In the 30-second PSA video, Dean recalls the fallout as a cautionary tale of not thinking through potential ramifications from posting on social media.

“At the time, I just wasn’t thinking,” Dean says in the video. “I used social media to vent—I wish I would have thought about the effects of scaring people.”

Dean says he searches his name on the internet every day and “it’s not going away.”

The FBI receives thousands of reports of social media threats every year, the agency said.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson said every single time those threats are made “we unleash the cavalry to go out and respond to those folks.”

“While many of them are meant as a joke, law enforcement thoroughly and quickly investigates each and every one of them as a serious threat to public safety. The public rightfully expects no less,” Anderson said. “These threats lead to a wide scale emergency response and, in some instances, the closing of businesses, schools or other public locations.”

During a news conference, Anderson referenced “a certain type of momentum that could build in social media, especially if it’s centered around a particularly sensitive or politically charged topic.”

As Anderson spoke, Dean sat next to him in khakis and a blue button down, folding his hands and furrowing his brow.

“I’ve lost a lot of friends,” Dean said, adding that his relationship with his family has suffered as well. “It just seems like they’re very angry at me because of what I did.”

Anderson said Dean’s post has resulted in a lifetime of consequences.

“I have a pretty bleak future,” Dean said. “I can’t pass background checks, I’ve been expelled from school—yeah, it sucks.”

Anderson thanked Dean and stressed the value of his story being told. He said he hoped there was a level of “catharsis” for Dean in talking about his tumultuous experience.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the charge against Dean if he completed 100 hours of community service.

Published 12 minutes ago | Updated 9 minutes ago

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