Charges: Man arrested for U of M threats made posts to catch attention of Secret Service, NSA and Homeland Security
Court records show a Chippewa County man has been formally charged after he was arrested by authorities for allegedly threatening to shoot people at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus last Thursday.
According to a criminal complaint, 41-year-old Joseph Mark Rongstad of Watson, Minnesota has been charged with two counts of threats of violence and one count of illegal ammunition possession. Rongstad was previously convicted of fifth-degree controlled substance possession and third-degree burglary.
As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the U of M had asked students and non-essential staff to stay clear of the campus on Jan. 11, despite it being open after a threat was made. Classes were not in session at the time due to the winter break.
Just after 1 p.m. that day, the campus public safety department gave the “all clear,” saying Rongstad was contained in Chippewa County and the campus could resume normal operations.
Court records show Rongstad had a hearing Thursday morning, where bail was set at $1 million. His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 14.
The criminal complaint says the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office started getting reports the day before, when concerning posts were made on the Facebook page for All Time Curing & Landscape, which is owned by Rongstad. The posts started that evening and continued through the morning of Jan. 11.
Deputies were at Rongstad’s home around midnight on the morning of Jan. 11, and a post made on the business’ Facebook page said in part “I’m in my house right now and you better have a bigger battering ram then you had when you came in the attic after me Chippewa Cty sheriffs… let this be a lesson America I’m in that room my mom was at….”
Multiple posts were made minutes after that, which included mentions of the United States military and NASA, and that “Remember america all my post may sound like i’m on meth but I guarantee you I am not at this point”, according to the complaint.
Deputies left the home around 12:41 a.m. and another post was made around 1:10 a.m., which said in part “LOTS OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE.”
Roughly two hours later, the complaint says a post made on the social media page that said “If this government don’t have the total lock down of ALL universty’s of Minnesota by this morning sun up watch out PARENTS what happens to your KIDS from IRAN in 2 weeks… see something say something…Kids will die for real amongst them u of m students… may not be till they lay down next time but it will be done from US the RONGSTAD MK ULTRA program not the USA governement.. if you let this government play with your life’s and children’s life’s anymore… then I don’t care if you end up dead… YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED for the last ti.e sutdents and parents of ALL U of M s”.
Yet another post made that same day said in part “I am heading out from watson Mn to the U of M Minneapolis mn to start killing kids this am as Joseph mark Rongstad. It only takes 2.5 hrs to get their…”, according to the complaint.
Due to the posts, multiple schools in went into lockdown procedures in Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Renville counties.
A SWAT team was sent to Rongstad’s home in Watson that morning and began a standoff with Rongstad. He was arrested around 4:18 p.m. on Jan. 11.
About two hours later, deputies returned to Rongstad’s home with a search warrant, where a complaint says they found letters written on paper, a black case with unidentified pills and several boxes and rounds of shotgun ammunition.
During an interview with Rongstad at the Chippewa County Jail, the document says while he was the mayor of Watson, he “started catching onto government stuff, such as mind reading, MK Ultra-mind control and shadow government.” He also allegedly spoke about the NSA, the pentagon and a family who he referred to as being involved with the NSA and the U of M, but said he knew this information through mind control.
The document goes on to say Rongstad told authorities his objective with making the social media posts was to get the Secret Service to speak with him, and when asked about children attending the U of M being killed, it was to “trip the NSA building and Homeland Security.”
When deputies asked about his alleged threats to kill children at the U of M, Rongstad told them he wasn’t planning on going to the U, adding he doesn’t have a gun but saying he put it out there “so people would think I left the house, because I was posting from the home you know. So, people wouldn’t think I was still in the house” according to the complaint.
Rongstad also told authorities during the interview he was the only one with access to his business’ Facebook account, and he was the only one who uses it. He also said he believed his first Facebook post made the day of the threat was around four a.m. or later.
The document also says Rongstad told deputies he had texted his mother that for the next two days she should arrive with someone in a squad car because “otherwise, your life could be in danger.”
If convicted of all charges, Rongstad could face up to 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.