Friends of Hunter Park say he ‘had a very twisted sense of humor’

MUPD officer Dustin Heckmaster: “I asked if he was quoting the Umpqua shooting; he replied, ‘mmhmm.’ I asked why he had quoted the phrase; Hunter replied, ‘I don’t know, I just … deep interest.’”

Hunter Park, the 19-year-old college student who was arrested after allegedly posting threats directed at black MU students via the social media app Yik Yak, "had a very twisted sense of humor,” according to a high school friend who chose to remain anonymous.

Park, a Missouri University of Science and Technology computer science major, published multiple “yaks” late Tuesday night that prompted over 50 calls to the MU Police Department in just over an hour. In separate posts, the sophomore wrote, “I'm going to stand my ground and shoot every black person I see,” and “Well tomorrow Mizzou will really make national news.”

A probable cause statement from MUPD officer Dustin Heckmaster said the Lake St. Louis, Missouri native was arrested at Thomas Jefferson Residence Hall, about 94 miles away from MU in Rolla, after filing an emergency request to Yik Yak for the suspect’s whereabouts. Police obtained a cellphone “ping” to locate Park.

“Park invited me into his (dorm) room and after a brief interview admitted to posting each inflammatory Yik Yak post,” Heckmaster wrote in the statement. “Hunter admitted the posts were ‘inappropriate.’”

When asked why he had sent out the threatening posts, Park told Heckmaster, “I won’t get there … so … I don’t know.”

A third “yak” sent out by Park read, “Some of you are alright; don’t go to campus tomorrow,” which, according to the court documents, was reminiscent of the message Chris Harper-Mercer, the Umpqua Community College shooting gunman, sent out before killing nine people and taking his own life at the Oregon school on Oct. 1.

“I asked Hunter what he meant by the phrase … (he) smiled and stated, ‘I was quoting something,’” Heckmaster wrote. “I asked if he was quoting the Umpqua shooting; he replied, ‘mmhmm.’ I asked why he had quoted the phrase; Hunter replied, ‘I don’t know, I just … deep interest.’”

Jessie Saleh, 18, a freshman at Missouri State University, was in student council with Park at Wentzville Holt High School. She tweeted a picture Wednesday of a survey in which Park wrote a disturbing message to his peers.

“He was always antisocial and a shit-disturber,” Saleh told The Maneater. “Despite liking to cause problems, he would not act on his threats. In student council, when we talked, he was nice to me and a couple other individuals, but that was because we actually talked to him.”

Saleh recalled that Park “had this attitude (that) he was better than everyone else and smarter,” and that, in high school, he had plans to be a science teacher.

“He was smarter and that’s why it’s hard to believe he didn’t think he would be caught,” Saleh said.

The friend who spoke of Park’s sense of humor said both of them suffer from cystic fibrosis and met in middle school. Due to the illness and the possibility of cross-infection, the two were advised to keep their distance, socializing through text messaging, Facebook and Skype.

“Knowing there was someone near by going through the same horrible (disease) I was intrigued me,” Park’s friend said. “We used each other to feel less alone in the world. (Cystic fibrosis) can be very isolating and scary and even more so since there aren't support groups or clubs you can join to be around others with my condition. So we were very close. We told each other things we didn't tell other people because they just wouldn't get it.”

Though they only knew each other “through a screen,” the anonymous source said she and Park were close from eighth to 10th grade and that he’s “insanely brilliant.” She said he was often bored in classes others were struggling with.

However, on many instances, Park frightened her. His dark sense of humor would frequently take things too far, including, she said, in the case of the MU threats.

“I think he found joy and amusement out of getting people riled up,” she said. “He found it funny when people were offended or insulted. I don't know why. I have confidence in saying he was never planning on doing anything. He just saw an opportunity (at MU) to ruffle feathers and took it way too far, like he often did.

“Whether this is the case or not, I believe Hunter is hurt and damaged by cystic fibrosis and his way of dealing with it is to reciprocate that feeling onto anyone he can. I think that is a common feeling for people with terminal illnesses and I think he just acted upon it and took it too far. I could be wrong, but that's my thoughts on this whole thing.”

Park has been charged with a class C felony, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. He was denied bond at the Boone County Courthouse on Thursday. His next court date is set for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18.

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