UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J.—The person who repeatedly threatened to kill African American students at the state university here was actually an African American, according to investigators. They've charged Kayla-Simone McKelvey, 24, a former homecoming queen at Kean University, with anonymously sending a series of tweets two weeks ago that threatened en masse bodily harm to students of color.
McKelvey graduated last spring from the university, but had remained politically active there past graduation. She had been one of the leaders of a days-long demonstration on the center of campus that sought to show support to black student protests at other universities, including Missouri and Yale.
Investigators said that, during the first evening of the demonstration in which she had participated at Kean, on November 17th, McKelvey left the event, and went to the college library, a few steps away, where she set up a Twitter account under a handle meant to conceal her identity.
Using the handle Keanuagaistblk, she tweeted some potentially homicidal messages, including, "I will shoot every black woman and male I see at Kean University," and "I will kill all the blacks tonight tomorrow and any other day if they go to Kean University," among other, similarly violent tweets. One had even threaten to explode a bomb on campus.
After making the posts, investigators said, McKelvey returned to the demonstration and made reference to the posts, in an apparent attempt to increase the urgency of her event. It had had the desired effect at the time, but took a turn for the far worse, when, the next day, more than half of the student body chose not to go to class out of concern for their safety.
"It makes the people who are active in what we're doing here, it discredits them," said Xavier White, a Kean University sophomore.
Like many students on the campus of 16,000, White knows of Kay Simone, as McKelvey refers to herself on social media, without knowing her well personally. She was a homecoming queen in 2014, according to her LinkedIn page, and, as an officer of the Pan-African Student Association, she was a well known leader of on campus protests. She was particularly well know. among African American students.
"For the most part, she was kind of respected" as a student leader, White said.
"She just plotted this whole thing," said sophomore Gina El Wassemmi. "All us skipped class the next day, but it was for nothing, really."
When the tweets went out, university officials notified federal authorities, as well as law enforcement at the state and local level. Federal agents at the time were working five different fatal shooting incidents on college campuses nationwide that had occurred within five months of the Kean University incident. They, and university officials, said they have taken the threat very seriously.
Kean's president, Dawood Farahi, on Tuesday made a public statement about the new developments, at a previously scheduled forum on ethnic diversity.
"As a diverse academic community, we wholeheartedly respect and support activism," Farahi said in prepared remarks. "However, no cause or issue gives anyone the right to threaten the safety of others," he said.
"We hope this information will begin to bring a sense of relief and security to the campus community," Dr. Farahi added.
McKelvey has now been charged with third degree creating a false alarm. She'll make her first appearance before a judge for the charge on December 14th.