Former mayor accused of threatening to kill college students, Minnesota cops say

The former mayor of Watson, Minnesota, was accused of threatening to kill University of Minnesota students on campus, deputies say.

Joseph Rongstad, 41, posted threats to his landscaping business’ Facebook page beginning the night of Jan. 10 and into the early hours of Jan. 11, court documents show.

The Facebook posts caused the university to increase law enforcement presence on campus and go into lockdown, according to the complaint.

No attorney information was listed for Rongstad.

“If this government don’t have the total lock down of ALL university’s of Minnesota by this morning sun up watch out PARENTS,” a Facebook post from the early hours of Jan. 11 read.

Court documents also say Rongstad threatened Chippewa County deputies.

“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,” read one of the Jan. 11 posts about the deputies.

Rongstad told deputies he did not intend to go to the University of Minnesota, but Facebook posts shown in the court documents reveal he threatened to do so.

“Here we go AMERICA, 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... if I can’t get the USA military to (come) talk to me face to face then I’m going for it to try defend your freedom America,” his last post prior to his arrest read.

Nothing came of the threats, according to police.

Rongstad told deputies in an interview that his objective was to get the attention of law enforcement, judicial officials and the Secret Service, according to the complaint.

Rongstad was arrested in his home and charged with two counts of threats of violence and one count of ineligible possession of ammunition due to a prior felony conviction, court documents show. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

He was elected mayor in 2012 and served until 2014, according to the Grand Forks Herald. He was sentenced to nine months in prison on a burglary charge in 2016 after he was accused of breaking into the new mayor’s house, according to the Minneapolis Star.

Watson is a town of roughly 200 people about 140 miles west of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

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