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UMN gives all clear after campus shooting threat

The suspect was arrested in his home Thursday evening.
Image by CJ Bonk
The University of Minnesota Police Department on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2023.

The 41-year-old man who threatened a shooting at the University of Minnesota Thursday morning was safely apprehended at his home Thursday evening, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.

Former mayor Joseph Mark Rongstad was booked into the Chippewa County Jail by local authorities on probable cause felony threats of violence and reckless disregard risk. The investigation is ongoing, but there is no known threat to the public at this time.

Criminal charges are expected to be filed in the coming days.

Rongstad posted on Facebook early Thursday morning he intended to “start killing kids” on the Twin Cities campus. The post was made on a landscaping business account Rongstad is associated with, after an analysis of Chippewa County property filings.

A Safe-U alert released just after 1 p.m., which gave the all-clear, said the Chippewa County Sheriff located the suspect, a former, small-town Minnesota mayor, and “contained [him] in their county.”

The University’s Public Safety Department asked all employees deemed non-essential to work from home after checking in with their supervisor. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to stay clear of campus until this situation is resolved.

Despite the urge to stay home, all campus buildings remained open with U-card access only.

Individual schools across campus were invited to communicate with students directly at the discretion of the school’s Dean or school’s leaders, said University spokesperson Jake Ricker in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

There has been a heightened police presence on campus. Squad cars were seen around major campus buildings, like Northrop Auditorium and Mariucci Arena.

According to the press release from the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), the West Central SWAT Team and the FBI were involved in the investigation.

BCA’s Director of Communications Howie Padilla said in an email to the Minnesota Daily the UMPD led the investigation. 

Rongstad was elected mayor of Watson, in 2012 and sentenced Dec. 13, 2016, to a felony charge of third-degree burglary.

According to Chippewa County court records. Rongstad was most recently convicted of a misdemeanor traffic offense in July 2023 and a felony charge for possession of drugs in June 2023.

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  • Bob Mecum
    Jan 16, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    Y opinion is that a heightened police presence on campus is the most effective deterrent to crime on and near UMN campuses. The ability to call for Minneapolis Police assistance increases the chances of perpetrator apprehension and a safer student environment.