Man accused of making terrorist threat at South Dakota State University

Alexander Peterson, courtesy Brookings County Sheriff's Office

A 19-year-old man is facing several charges, including making a terrorist threat, after police say he threatened other students at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

Alexander Peterson was arrested Wednesday, February 28, according to court documents obtained by KSFY News.

Investigators say they first received a report of a possible threat from a Residential Housing Director at SDSU. Several residents at Pierson Hall, a student dormitory at SDSU, had notified housing officials that Peterson "had access to guns and said he was going to shoot up the school.”

Police interviewed several students who had voiced concerns. Court papers state the students told police Peterson had posted a meme to Snapchat threatening the school. The meme allegedly showed a picture of a woman wearing a hijab with the text “When a white kid shoots up the school the same day you planned to bomb it.”

In a later comment in the same group message Peterson allegedly posted “I feel like jumping off a god damn cliff now,” while also threatening to break out the windows of a specific student’s truck.

Investigators say students were also concerned after Peterson stated “don’t forget I was suspended from school last year.” When asked why, Peterson said for “the same thing as my meme.”

According to court documents, the students told officers during the interview that they were afraid for their lives and the lives of others.

The students also told police Peterson had made multiple comments about shooting up the school and being able to hack computers. Each student interviewed told investigators they believed Peterson had means to commit these crimes because his parents are avid gun collectors. They had also seen photographs of the weapons Peterson was able to access.

Investigators also reached out to the Flandreau Police Department. Peterson had previously attended Flandreau High School. Flandreau police reported Peterson had also made comments about violent acts towards the school. He was never arrested for any of the comments made in Flandreau.

Peterson was arrested on one count of making a terrorist threat for an attempt to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population,” as well as six counts of simple assault for other threats to harm individuals.

KSFY News reached out to South Dakota State University, but a university spokesman said they cannot comment because it is an ongoing investigation.