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Cal Poly student arrested in connection with death threat against SLO Solidarity leader

SLO Solidarity co-leader Mario Espinoza addresses the crowd at Cal Poly’s anti-hate rally Thursday.
SLO Solidarity co-leader Mario Espinoza addresses the crowd at Cal Poly’s anti-hate rally Thursday. nwilson@thetribunenews.com

A 20-year-old Cal Poly student was arrested Friday in connection with a death threat made earlier this week against a leader of SLO Solidarity, a group pushing for the university to change its policy to better promote tolerance and inclusion.

The university announced that Cal Poly University Police had arrested Charles Raymond Bird about noon Friday on suspicion of felony threats and hate crime charges, according to a news release. He is a history major, according to Cal Poly’s directory.

Matt Klepfer, president of the Queer Student Union and a political science sophomore, was sent a Facebook message from a fake account Tuesday night that threatened an attack against him and other SLO Solidarity participants. The message ended with an anti-Semitic slur.

The message was sent from an account with the username “Mordecai Shekelburg.” The Facebook user connected with the threat admitted Shekelburg was a fake name, appearing to reference an Internet meme mocking a Jewish man.

University Police Cmdr. Brenda Trobaugh said the sender went to great lengths to disguise his identity.

“This made for a very complex investigation that required our offices to obtain multiple search warrants in order to gather evidence from several places,” Trobaugh said.

Investigators said the threat against Klepfer was made by an individual and is not connected with any additional suspects or groups, according to the news release.

University Police said Bird was booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on Friday; his bond has been set at $50,000. According to the San Luis Obispo County Jail website, Bird was arrested on suspicion of threatening with intent to terrorize and violating civil rights by force or threat of force. The case is ongoing.

On Monday, SLO Solidarity issued a list of 41 demands to the university’s administration, which included increasing student and faculty diversity, and adding more inclusion programming and curriculum. The group says it believes Cal Poly hasn’t done enough to make the campus a welcome place for minorities.

The threat prompted about 75 students to gather at the University Union on Wednesday and march through campus, stopping at the administration building.

On Thursday, more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff attended a rally to oppose intolerance on campus.

Klepfer walked alongside Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong in leading protesters on a march from Kennedy Library to the University Union, where Armstrong and student activists spoke about how there’s no place for hate at Cal Poly.

Cal Poly is expected to release its action plan to address how it will handle programs related to diversity and inclusion by the end of the fall quarter. Finals finish Dec. 11.

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