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Michigan teen arrested, accused of plotting mass killing on Instagram

The teen allegedly talked about his frustration with girls, his plans to kill people, and he even mentioned an East Lansing synagogue by name.
Michigan teen arrested, accused of plotting mass killing on Instagram
Posted at 10:23 AM, Jun 19, 2023

The FBI has arrested a teenager in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for alleged anti-Semitic threats.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, 19-year-old Seann Pietila of Pickford, Michigan, was charged in a criminal complaint with transmitting a communication threatening to hurt someone.

The messages, detailed in the criminal complaint, are disturbing to read. 

The criminal complaint says the messages were sent on Instagram. In them, Pietila talks about his frustration with girls, his plans to kill people, and he even mentions an East Lansing synagogue by name.

"He wanted to create another Pittsburgh is what was my reaction," said State Rep. Noah Arbit, referring to the 2018 the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue that killed 11 people.

Arbit said when he read through the criminal complaint: "Well, it was terrifying. As a Jew, it’s terrifying."

The complaint includes pictures of Pietila and a picture of the Notes app on his phone. 

The Notes app lists East Lansing synagogue Shaarey Zedek Congregation and the date March 15, 2024. 

It's written in the complaint that the date was originally 2023. 

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Below the synagogue and date are a list of weapons: "Two Stag-15's, 12 gauge shotgun and two back up Glock 18's AND a Akm full auto conversion."

"It is dark," said Arbit.

It remains dark throughout the complaint. 

The 43 pages contain dozens of alleged Instagram direct messages in which Pietila talks about girls, saying, "She’s been ignoring me constantly and just been being a dry texter. But yeah I’m just done at this point. F--- this world and everything in it. I’m gonna start making plans soon, just gotta buy a few more things."

One text talks about his classmates. 

"At school today there's this kid that likes to kick me and shadow box against me and I was hanging out with a teacher when he came pretending to punch me after that kid leaves the teacher goes I've seen people like you before you go home and plan all the things you'd do to him and ik you could easy kill him I can see how you look at him when he comes," one of the texts reads.

Many messages talk about getting guns. 

"Real though so do I only wish there was easier ways to get guns here bc I really need some at this point man I done with everything as well," one of the messages read.

The messages also talk about how Pietila allegedly plans to kill. There is derogatory language toward the Jewish and Black communities throughout the messages. 

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Court records indicate that Pietila faces up to five years in federal prison and up to three years of supervised release if convicted. 

Arbit said he doesn't think that is strong enough. His legislation "The Michigan Hate Crime Act" will be voted on in the legislature Tuesday aiming to strengthen and expand Michigan's existing laws against acts like these and others. 

He said the goal is to make it known that hate crimes have strong consequences in Michigan. 

"Right now in the State of Michigan, hate crimes against gay people, against disabled people, against the elderly, cannot be prosecuted," said Arbit. "So making sure we’re expanding it and strengthening penalties."

Pietila is scheduled for a detention and preliminary hearing June 22 in federal court in Grand Rapids.

This story was originally published by Sarah Michals and Chad Britton at Scripps News Detroit. 

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