A 27-year-old who identified as a “former incel” was arrested on Tuesday after threatening a mass shooting at the University of Arizona, federal authorities said.
Michael Penchung Lee was arrested on suspicion of making an interstate threat after authorities said he sent multiple messages on Snapchat on Sunday threatening to commit a mass shooting at the university with an AR-15 as revenge on fraternity and sorority members. According to the federal complaint reviewed by HuffPost, Lee had identified himself as a “former incel” on his Instagram page.
The Anti-Defamation League, a nongovernment group that combats antisemitism and tracks extremist hate, refers to “incels,” a shortened term for “involuntary celibates,” as a subculture of “heterosexual men who blame women and society for their lack of romantic success.”
Federal charges have yet to be filed, and no attorney was listed for Lee in court records.
The federal complaint says the University of Arizona was the stated target of the mass shooting threat. The university said the suspect is not affiliated with the college in Tucson.
According to the federal complaint, Lee stated in a group chat, “Theres going to be a mass tragedy and atrocity at the UofA Soon.”
When asked by someone in the chat what the tragedy at the University of Arizona would be, Lee allegedly indicated it would be a mass shooting, according to the complaint.
Lee allegedly messaged the group chat that he was going to purchase an AR-15 to commit the shooting, stating that “it’s Arizona you can just buy one.”
According to the nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety, Arizona has weak gun laws, with no extreme risk measure in place to prevent someone in crisis from obtaining a firearm. The state also doesn’t require background checks on all firearms purchases.
According to the complaint, Lee said he was unsure when he would purchase the AR-15 but added he would most likely do it right before the shooting so his mother would not find the gun.
“The day of Retribution is upon us, I shall get revenge on all the chads and stacies!!” he said, according to the complaint.
Although FBI agents suspected Lee referred to fraternity and sorority members on campus as “chads and stacies,” the ADL defines “Chads” as “the men most women want to date,” described as good-looking and confident men, while “Stacys” are women they hate who date “Chads” but that the incels would want to date.
When Lee noticed women in the group chat began to screenshot his messages, he allegedly said he was no longer going to give them a warning when he was going to commit the shooting.
“My alleged crimes? Im gonna commit a much worse crime .... Youll hear about it on the news,” Lee allegedly wrote. “It’s a solo mission, I’m not normal, I never have been, I’m severely autistic and mentally ill and was never accepted by society, I have no place in the world.”
Lee also allegedly noted that the 10th anniversary of “the day of retribution is may 23, 2024,” at which point he feared students would no longer be on campus.
May 23, 2014, was the date that 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, a self-proclaimed incel, went on a murderous rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, killing six people before killing himself. He had initially targeted a sorority house near the campus but was unable to gain entrance. A video he uploaded before the attack was titled “retribution,” and he also released a 137-page manifesto that numerous other shooters and would-be shooters have cited as inspiration.
According to the ADL, some incels have idolized Rodgers to the point that they refer to a misogynistic rage-fueled attack as to “go ER.”
In his group chat this week, Lee’s final message was “im gonna do it guys, my mind is made up and there’s nothing u can do or say to stop me,” according to the complaint.
Throughout October, Lee’s car was seen several times at the university’s Greek row from the hours of 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., the complaint said.
Lee was taken into custody on Monday, when he allegedly confessed to authorities that he wrote the messages in the Snapchat group chat and attempted to purchase a firearm two months ago but decided against it.
“Lee stated he was frustrated with his homelife and decided to ‘vent’ to the group chat with his friends,” the complaint said. “He stated he was a former member of the incel community but was no longer.”
Authorities later learned that he was arrested in September on suspicion of possessing controlled substances and had kept a firearm in a storage facility.
In a statement, the University of Arizona’s Office of Public Safety said it was made aware of the threats directed toward fraternities and sororities and was working with the organizations to offer support.
According to the university, Lee was not affiliated with the school.