FBI officials have made contact with three Oklahoma college students linked to racist messages that were sent to black freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania last week, Penn's safety chief said Tuesday.
Whether the students will be charged depends on whether the investigation finds they intended to inflict fear on the Penn students who were joined to a cellphone text-messaging app group named "N- Lynching," said Maureen Rush, Penn's vice president for public safety.
"They would have to discern that there was intentionality on the part of one or all of the three males," she said.
One of the students attended the University of Oklahoma, which suspended him shortly after the incident became public and on Tuesday announced he was no longer enrolled.
Rush declined to say where the other two students - who are not connected to the University of Oklahoma - are enrolled, noting that the investigation is continuing.
Late Tuesday, however, Tulsa Community College issued a statement acknowledging that one of the students was its. It did not name the student, but said that person has been placed on "interim academic suspension" while the matter is investigated.
Six black freshmen at Penn, four female and two male, received the original racist messages and then began sharing them with friends, horrified by what they saw, Rush said.
The messages, violent and racist, came from people calling themselves "Daddy Trump" and another who wrote "Heil Trump" in the app GroupMe, popular with college students and others. The Penn students, Rush said, were joined on to the group without their knowledge or permission.
A calendar function in the GroupMe app scheduled several "N- Lynchings," including a "daily lynching" for last Friday. One posting displayed an old image of a lynching with the note "I love America."
The racist messages roiled the Ivy League campus last week, just days after Donald Trump was elected president.
The University of Oklahoma became aware of its student's potential involvement before the FBI began investigating, Rush said. The university suspended the student, and on Tuesday, president David L. Boren made the announcement that he was no longer enrolled. The university declined to release the identity of the student.
"As our university has clearly demonstrated in the past, we have zero tolerance at this university for those who would engage in racism," Boren said in a statement.
Rush said Penn has confirmed that there was no breach of Penn's computer system to gain access to the students.
But in a statement Tuesday night, the school explained how students in Oklahoma were able to target the Penn community.
The school said one of the men being investigated in Oklahoma had been offered admission to Penn, and when he accepted, he was invited to join Penn's private Facebook group for the Class of 2020. The student ultimately decided not to attend Penn, but by then he had contact information for some of Penn's black freshmen.
None of the men has reached out to Penn students or anyone else to express remorse, Rush said.
"This has been extremely impactful on the entire community, particularly people of color," Rush said, "not just because of this incident but because of the kind of climate in the country right now."