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UIC student charged in online shooting threat

Members of the Chicago Police Department SWAT team patrol the Main Quadrangles (Quad) on the Hyde Park Campus of the University of Chicago on November 30, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The university president closed the campus today after the university was informed by the FBI that a threat of gun violence was made against the school specifically mentioning the "campus quad". (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For each of the 16 bullets that hit Laquan McDonald, Jabari R. Dean allegedly took to the Internet and promised to “execute” a white student or staff member at the University of Chicago.

But his uncle said he’s simply a “stupid kid” with nothing to do. And the feds don’t think he could have pulled off the shooting.

Regardless, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox told Dean, 21, that he’d spend the night in federal custody after authorities arrested him for making chilling comments on the website worldstarhiphop.com that shut down the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus Monday. Dean admitted he used his phone to post the comment Saturday but quickly deleted it, according to the feds. Someone sent a screenshot of the post to the FBI, and the words are contained in the criminal complaint filed against Dean:

“This is my only warning. At 10 a.m. on Monday mourning (sic) I am going to the campus quad of the University of Chicago. I will be armed with a M-4 Carbine and 2 Desert Eagles all fully loaded. I will execute aproximately (sic) 16 white male students and or staff, which is the same number of time (sic) Mcdonald (sic) was killed. I then will die killing any number of white policemen that I can in the process. This is not a joke. I am to do my part to rid the world of the white devils. I expect you to do the same….”

The comment was posted using the online profile name “JRD,” which used the Chicago Bulls logo as a profile picture.

Dean spoke softly when he appeared in Cox’s courtroom wearing a hooded red University of Illinois at Chicago sweatshirt. He studies electrical engineering at the school and previously attended Chicago State University, according to his LinkedIn page. He was described Monday as a straight-A student. UIC also issued a statement confirming that a UIC student living off-campus had been arrested in connection with the threats against the University of Chicago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tobara Richardson told the judge Dean was arrested at 10:25 a.m. Monday and didn’t have the means to carry out his threat. He now faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted. The judge agreed Dean should be released on bond. However, she ordered him held in federal custody overnight until Dean’s mother could appear in court to be admonished as a third-party custodian. Dean is expected back in court Tuesday.

Dean’s uncle, Phillip Rutherford, attended the hearing and told his nephew to “just be cool” before Dean was taken out of the courtroom. After court, Dean’s attorney, Damon Cheronis, simply concurred that his client doesn’t pose a threat. A source familiar with the investigation said authorities found no gun when they searched Dean’s home.

Dean posted his comments four days after City Hall released a video of a white police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who is black, 16 times. Authorities have charged that officer, Jason Van Dyke, with murder. But angry protesters have flooded city streets, even shutting down Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The University of Chicago announced Sunday that it would cancel Monday classes on its Hyde Park campus after FBI counterterrorism officials warned it of an “online threat of gun violence.” The school announced Monday that normal operations would resume Tuesday.

“I want to express my great admiration for and appreciation of members of our community — including faculty, students, staff, and friends — for their mutually supportive and thoughtful approach in what has been a challenging day,” President Robert J. Zimmer wrote in a statement.

The University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus was desolate early Monday, save for campus police and other security personnel in blue coats stationed on nearly every block. Grace Tsiang, an economics professor at the school who took her dog for a walk near the quadrangle, said, “you have to be truly unhinged to say you’re going to show up at 10 a.m. with guns.”

“I don’t think that one should just change one’s entire life because of the small probability this is,” Tsiang said, before interrupting herself. “You know, there’s danger in the world all the time.”

A student grabbing coffee at a Starbucks at 55th and Woodlawn said her classmates were heeding warnings to stay home. Finals start next week, and she said she expected many students to use the time to jumpstart their studies.

“I’m not going to go run across campus or anything,” said the student, who did not want to provide her name. “I’m only here because I was dropping off my boyfriend at the airport and I’m out of coffee.”

There was an increased police presence on the University of Chicago campus Monday after a threat of violence forced the school to cancel classes for the day. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times