Pitt student said he sent racist and threatening messages

Pitt student said he sent racist and threatening messages

By Janine Faust, Editor-in-chief

A Pitt student whose name appeared in a series of Snapchat messages posted to Twitter on Wednesday morning said he sent messages containing violent and racist threats to a Pittsburgh native.

The screenshots, posted by 20-year-old D.J. Matthews, a graduate of Mt. Lebanon high school, feature part of a conversation on Snapchat between Matthews and a user under the name of Ethan J. Kozak.

Kozak, a rising junior political science major with plans to attend law school, said on Thursday he had not looked over the messages in the screenshots and initially denied having sent them, believing someone had taken or hacked into his phone at one point. However, he said on Sunday he had since looked at the messages and admits he sent them to Matthews in a fit of anger.

In the screenshots, messages from Kozak include threats to shoot Matthews, who is black, “legally… just like George Zimmerman,” and use derogatory and racist language such as the “n-word” repeatedly.

“I thought all this sh*t was in the past, but it seems like it’s not,” Matthews tweeted along with the screenshots. “We have no more room for racist a**holes so if you ain’t got something nice to say don’t say it.”

The University responded to Matthews’ post late Wednesday, indicating it had shared the screenshots with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“If you feel that you or someone you know is in danger, we encourage you to contact the appropriate police department,” the University’s tweet said.

Kozak then said on Sunday that he had been placed on interim suspension and would be meeting with the Dean of Students, Kenyon Bonner, this week. He also said in an email sent Sunday night that he is meeting with the Office of Student Conduct.

“I’m so glad to have my Pitt family,” Kozak said. “I look forward to resolving this matter with the university.”

The University would not confirm on Monday if Kozak has been placed on interim suspension as he claimed. Pitt would also not comment on Kozak’s claim that he is meeting with Dean Bonner and that he is in communication with the Office of Student Conduct.

According to a Monday statement from Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick, the University was made aware of text and social media messages attributed to a Pitt student, “threatening violence and expressing racism.”

“Such conduct is unacceptable and runs in stark contrast to our University’s values and mission,“ Zwick said. “At this time, Pitt Police are working with City of Pittsburgh Police to investigate this matter, and the safety of our University community remains a top priority.”

The Pitt police also responded to Matthews’ tweet Friday, saying that both Pitt and City police are aware of the incident and have followed up.

Kozak has denied having said anything racist or violent to Matthews or anyone else prior to the conversation posted on Wednesday.

“I’ve known [Matthews] since 2013, if I was really racist something would have really went wrong between then and now,” he said.

Matthews said he has been loosely acquainted with Kozak through a mutual acquaintance for around six years. He said he had not spoken to Kozak for a while until mid-June, when he claims Kozak sent a message containing a racial slur and a picture of a gun to their mutual acquaintance. Matthews said he responded to Kozak’s messages through the acquaintance’s phone, telling him not to use that kind of language.

Kozak denies having sent a message like that to anyone. He also claims Matthews contacted him first via Snapchat on Wednesday, threatening to hurt him and insulting his father. He said he did not take screenshots of any Snapchat messages from the incident himself since he does not like to keep anything “hurtful or negative.”

Matthews said Kozak was the one to contact him first on Wednesday, asking to “buy some rugs,” in reference to Matthews’ job at a rug shop. He said he did not think to screenshot and save the specific messages that came before the ones he posted on Twitter.

Matthews claims the exchange escalated from there, as he was still angry about the messages he said Kozak sent their mutual acquaintance earlier this month. Matthews said he did not say anything to Kozak about his father. He said he would fight Kozak if he saw him. This resulted in the threatening messages from Kozak that he screenshotted and posted on Twitter.

“Last time we spoke, I said it was on sight,” Matthews said. “Once I saw him using racial slurs, I thought ‘The world needs to see who this guy is’ and took it to social media.”

Kozak said he is going to meet with Matthews to talk about the words exchanged between the two.

“What matters is what I said and what I stand for, and racism isn’t it, never has, not anywhere in my history, not as far back and as deep as you look,” he said.

Matthews said he has not spoken with Kozak since the incident and does not plan on speaking with him again.

“Some things are too close to the heart,” he said.