Former Tarleton student indicted for racial violence in New Jersey

Former Tarleton State University student Kenneth Petersen, 21, has been indicted for a 2018 incident where he called for racial violence in an online group chat, according to press release issued by a New Jersey prosecutor. 

Students from Northern Burlington High School in New Jersey had created a group chat in the messaging app, GroupMe, to discuss senior prank ideas. Petersen somehow joined the chat and proceeded to participate in their conversation. 

This screenshot shows a piece of the press release issued by the Burlington County proscuter’s office. Screenshot by Arynn Tomson

After receiving the threat from Petersen, a student informed a teacher about the issue and they then notified the police.  

“The comment raised particular concern in the school community because it was made as the 2018 graduation ceremony was approaching. The Mansfield Township Police Department immediately provided an increased presence on the campus, and it was quickly determined that the threat had come from out of state and that no students or members of the staff were in immediate danger,” records show from the Burlington County Prosecutor Press Release.  

Petersen was arrested in September of 2019 after a multi-agency investigation arose from the message he had sent. The investigation was conducted by the Mansfield Township Police Department, with assistance from the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers, the New Jersey State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tarleton State University Police Department. 

When asked about the indictment, there was not a lot of information Tarleton police were allowed to release.   

Tarleton Police Chief Matt Welch said, “It is the policy of the A&M system not to comment on out of state cases.” 

Petersen, himself said, “I am not aware of it (indictment)” and “I think you have the wrong number.” 

Kenneth Petersen’s father, Phillip Petersen, contacted Texan News Service shortly after his son was interviewed.  

Prior to the indictment, Kenneth Petersen had been a member of the Tarleton SGA,  a RL at Tarleton’s on-campus housing, a member of Tarleton State University’s Delta Chi Fraternity and an employee at the local H-E-B Grocery.                         
  Photo Courtesy Burlington County Prosecutor 

“The Texas A&M risk manager knows that they have a potential $250 million lawsuit against them for defamation and essentially what they’re doing is going after every single person naming the person and if this is the Texan News Service, they would just add it to the pile,” Phillip Petersen said.  

Prior to the indictment, Petersen had been a member of the Tarleton State University Student Government Association, a Residential Leader at Tarleton’s on-campus housing, a member of Tarleton State University’s Delta Chi Fraternity and an employee at the local H-E-B Grocery.  

Since the indictment, Petersen is no longer a member of the Delta Chi Fraternity according to President “A” Patrick Topel. 

“Yes, he has been removed. He was removed a long time ago,” Topel said.  

 He is also no longer a Residential Leader for Tarleton on-campus housing, according to  

An anonymous former member of the Tarleton State Student Government Association has confirmed that Petersen is no longer a member of the organization.  

H-E-B replied to a post on Twitter from @Zekethephysique asking about the employment of Petersen after the indictment. 

“At H-E-B, we do not condone discrimination or acts of violence of any kind. This person is not employed with our company,” the H-E-B Twitter account replied.  

Petersen was indicted by a grand jury on one count of fourth degree bias intimidation. The indictment was returned Jan. 9 and signed by Prosecutor Scott Coffina of Burlington County, N.J. 

“There can never be any tolerance for racially-motivated threats like this and especially during recent times when we have seen threats escalate to actual acts of violence, law enforcement must respond with the utmost seriousness,” Coffina said. “You cannot hide behind a cell phone halfway across the country while spewing such hatred.” 

Texan News has reached out to the Tarleton PD and they have decided to not comment on the matter.  

View the Burlington county prosecutor press release:

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