WASHINGTON — An Alexandria, Virginia man has been arrested and charged with posting online comments threatening to kill African-American students at Howard University in D.C.
John Edgar Rust, 24, who is white, was arrested Wednesday. Rust is accused of posting the anonymous comments to the online message board 4chan in November 2015. The comments, which were riddled with racial slurs, detailed a plan to kill Howard students and contained the phrase: “It’s not murder if they’re black.”
The threats, which came after a series of racially charged incidents at the University of Missouri earlier that year, sparked fear on the Howard campus and led to stepped-up security.
Court documents from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said authorities tracked an IP address to an Alexandria Panera Bread location where they said Rust used the free Wi-Fi to post the threats.
According to online court records, Rust was convicted in Loudoun County in 2012 of indecent liberties with a child and aggravated sexual battery. As a condition of his probation, he was prohibited from accessing the internet, the court documents stated.
Authorities confiscated multiple digital devices, including smartphones, a computer and an external hard drive, according to the court documents. The hard drive contained articles and information about the design and use of explosives and firearms, the documents stated.
Rust is facing a federal charge tied to the making of threats, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Rust is scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria Thursday.