MANSFIELD (Burlington) — A Texas man is facing a hate crime charge in New Jersey after investigators said he posted an online violent, racist threat against a Burlington County high school.

Authorities say Kenneth Petersen, 21, of Stephenville, Texas, went on a senior-prank group chat started by a student at Northern Burlington County Regional High School in the spring of 2018 and said that “all the black people at the school” should be shot.

The student who had started the group shared the message with a teacher. The comment alarmed law enforcement and the community ahead of the school's graduation ceremony, which resulted in beefed up police presence.

Investigators said they quickly discovered that the threat had come from out of state and they tied it Petersen, who was a college student in Texas at the time. Petersen was arrested in September and a grand jury this month handed up an indictment on fourth-degree bias intimidation.

Prosecutors don't know how Petersen came across the GroupMe chat.

“You cannot hide behind a cell phone halfway across the country while spewing such hatred," Prosecutor Scott Coffina said Wednesday in a written statement. “There can never be any tolerance for racially-motivated threats like this and, especially during recent times when we have seen threats escalate to actual acts of violence, law enforcement must respond with the utmost seriousness.”

New Jersey 101.5 did not know Wednesday evening whether Petersen had an attorney.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email

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