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Man Arrested for Threatening to Bomb Harvard’s 2017 Black Commencement

Families and soon-to-be graduates fill Tercentenary Theatre at the 365th Commencement exercises.
Families and soon-to-be graduates fill Tercentenary Theatre at the 365th Commencement exercises. By Helen Y. Wu
By Caroline S. Engelmayer, Crimson Staff Writer

Authorities on Friday arrested a man who allegedly threatened to bomb Harvard and shoot attendees of the University’s 2017 black Commencement, the United States attorney’s office announced Saturday.

Phoenix, Ariz. resident Nicholas Zuckerman, 24, faces two counts of transmitting in interstate and foreign commerce a threat to injure the person of another—and of singling out the people he threatened because of their “race and color,” according to the attorney’s office.

He will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date yet to be determined.

“On or about” May 13, 2017, Zuckerman allegedly commented on a post on Harvard’s Instagram account calling for “violence and death” at the University’s first-ever black Commencement, according to the attorney’s office. The ceremony for black students—held for the first time in late May 2017—is meant to celebrates black achievement across Harvard’s schools and acknowledges challenges that students of color may face at the University.

“If the blacks only ceremony happens, then I encourage violence and death at it,” Zuckerman allegedly wrote. “I’m thinking two automatics with extendo clips.”

That threatening post is not the only one Zuckerman allegedly wrote; he is also accused of commenting on another Harvard Instagram post on the same day.

“#bombharvard and end their pro-black agenda,” he allegedly commented.

Shortly after penning these comments, he commented “#bombharvard” on posts made by other users approximately 11 times over a period of four minutes, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Harvard learned of Zuckerman’s posts when “a concerned citizen” who saw them reported them to the Harvard University Police Department on May 13, the attorney’s office announced. The next day, a HUPD officer “viewed and documented” Zuckerman’s comments, according to Zuckerman’s indictment.

In an interview, Christina Sterling, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, said HUPD collaborated with federal authorities in the investigation that led to Zuckerman’s arrest. But she declined to share details.

“We don’t discuss how the investigation played out,” she said.

The University could continue working with federal authorities as it forges ahead with its efforts to prosecute Zuckerman, according to Sterling.

“Usually we collaborate frequently with local and state police in investigations like this,” she said.

University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson declined to comment on the investigation or the prosecution.

The charge Zuckerman faces carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. A federal district court judge will impose a sentence on Zuckerman if he is found guilty.

U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf will oversee Zuckerman’s case.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

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