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Online threats against UArizona put man in Federal Prison

Michael Penchung Lee threatened a mass shooting
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jul 02, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — We don’t know the exact environment Michael Penchung Lee was in when he tapped out the threats on Snapchat that led him to Federal custody but the overall image that comes across through the court documents is an angry, lonely man pouring out that anger online.

Investigators say Michael Penchung Lee threatened fraternities and sororities at University of Arizona—-and that he identified himself as an incel or involuntary celibate. Incels feel they can not form romantic or sexual relationships and often resent people who do.

Charging documents say Lee went on the social media app SnapChat and said,

“The day of Retribution is upon us, I shall get revenge on all the chads and stacies!!”

A Snapchat user’s tip helped UA Police and the FBI find and arrest Lee.

Lee’s attorney Thomas Higgins explained reports that Lee's car was seen again and again near UA’s Greek Row. He said Lee wasn’t prowling the area planning a shooting, he was an Uber driver going where the customers are, but Prosecutor Adam Rossi says Lee said online that driving for Uber would help him kidnap women.

Lee’s lawyer says Lee has substance abuse and mental health problems.

Lee apologized in court and said he would work to get his life on track.

Federal Judge Rosemary Marquez told Lee he’s lucky he was stopped before he acted on his threats. She sentenced him near the top of what sentencing guidelines allow: 16 months in prison, with three years probation to follow. He’ll get credit for the eight months he was jailed since his arrest. And he’ll be barred from any contact with U of A until his probation is done.

Lee could face more prison time besides the federal sentence. He’s facing drug charges in state court that his attorney says could lead to another two and a half years in state prison.


Law enforcement reacts to U of A threat sentencing

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.