Who Is Patrick Dai? Cornell University Student Arrested for Threatening to Shoot Jewish Students on Campus Suffers from 'Severe Depression'

These posts included threats to harm Jewish students, indicating intentions to commit acts of violence such as killing and raping, as well as bringing "an assault rifle to campus."

  • Updated

A 21-year-old man from New York State was arrested and charged with making threats to carry out a mass shooting and commit violent acts targeting Jewish students at Cornell University. The man has been identified as Patrick Dai, a junior engineering student at Cornell University, who suffers from "severe depression."

Dai, originally from Pittsford, New York, was arrested on a federal criminal complaint. The charges against Dai include posting threats to kill or injure others using interstate communications, the Department of Justice said. If convicted, the charge against him carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

Arrested for Threatening

Patrick Dai
Patrick Dai X

Dai was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly making a series of online posts over the weekend. These posts included threats to harm Jewish students, indicating intentions to commit acts of violence such as killing and raping, as well as bringing "an assault rifle to campus."

Governor Kathy Hochul of New York announced the arrest via a tweet on Tuesday, after the school's message board was flooded with abhorrent anti-Semitic threats just days prior.

Patrick Dai
One of the anti-Semitic posts made by Patrick Dai X

"Law enforcement has identified a person of interest in relation to threats of a mass shooting and antisemitic violence at Cornell University," she tweeted.

"This individual is currently in New York State Police custody for questioning."

On Sunday, a series of disturbing posts emerged at an Ivy League university in upstate New York, threatening the Cornell Jewish community and particularly mentioning the kosher dining hall.

One post specifically threatened to shoot Jewish students on campus, while others contained calls for more explicit acts of violence. Another post suggested the Jewish student center should be eliminated, drawing parallels to the situation in Israel.

Patrick Dai
Another threatening post made by Patrick Dai X

Martha Pollack, the university's president, told the Cornell community that she had reported the threats to the FBI. The agency confirmed on Monday that it had launched an investigation into the matter.

"We take all threats seriously and are working closely with Cornell and our law enforcement partners at every level to determine the credibility, share information, and take appropriate investigative action,' wrote the agency in a statement.

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our communities and we will not tolerate violence motivated by hate and extremism."

Investigators were able to track the disturbing posts back to Dai's IP address located at his off-campus apartment, according to a federal complaint obtained by NBC News. Dai, reportedly, admitted to being the person behind the posts.

Parent Believe Differently

Dai's parents maintain their belief in their son's innocence although his mother admitted that her son suffers from "severe depression" and was worried he was on the brink of suicide just moments before his arrest.

Governor Kathy Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul making the announcement of Dai's arrest X

"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," his father, who requested anonymity, told The New York Post in a text message.

According to Dai's parents, he sank into a deep depression in 2021, just a year after commencing his engineering studies at the prestigious university.

Dai entered the school as one of the five National Merit Scholars from Pittsford-Mendon High School. He had an impressive academic record, earning the title of a 12-time AP Scholar. He also dedicated time to volunteering at Rochester General Hospital.

At Cornell, Dai was actively involved in various roles. He worked as an undergraduate consultant, providing tutoring assistance to fellow engineering students in MATLAB, a computer programming language. He also held the position of director of logistics for the school's Science Olympiad.

Moreover, Dai served as an orientation leader and, as per his LinkedIn profile, he was swiftly promoted to a supervisor position within just two months of starting the job, the outlet reported.

According to Dai's parents, their son underwent a significant change after just one year, although they adamantly emphasized that he had no history of violence.

"He was always very nice to society, well organized, helpful to my family and his classmates before 2021," his father said.

"He told us he lost his life goal and motivation ... As parents, we tried to give him more love."

At the recommendation of a doctor, Dai took two semesters off from his studies—spring of 2022 and 2023—in an attempt to recover, but he encountered challenges in regaining his motivation and drive.

Communication between Dai and his parents ceased just days before his arrest, around the time he allegedly posted concerning threats to "shoot up 104 West," a university dining hall largely serving Kosher diets, and to harm Jewish men by "slitting their throat."

Kathy Hochul
Kathy Hochul at Cornell University on Monday X

"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," Dai's father said.

When she traveled the 80 miles to the Ithaca building, Dai had already been arrested, so she encountered several police officers outside her son's college residence instead of him.

Despite not believing their son is accountable for the antisemitic posts, Dai's parents speculate that his depression might somehow be connected to the case.