Angry Ex-Con Causes Columbia Spectator to Close Newsroom, Issue Staffers a Warning

The Columbia Daily Spectator at Columbia University has temporarily closed its newsroom due to the threats of an angry ex-convict who first appeared in the paper in the early 1970s.

The 60-second summary: In 1974, Daniel Mingues, 18, was convicted along with a few others in the mugging and murder of a Columbia University professor two years before. The Spectator of course dutifully covered the whole shebang — the stabbing, subsequent investigation, criminal case and final sentencing (screenshot of the latter story below). Cut to the present. Mingues, now 57, has served his time (for that incident and apparently a number of others), but is still holding a grudge against the paper for writing about him way back when.

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The New York Times: “[Mingues] appeared on campus July 1, students and the police said, carrying a digital copy of a 1972 article from the Spectator and demanding to know who had written it. According to a police spokeswoman, Mr. Mingues warned a university employee, ‘I’ve killed someone before and I can do it again.'”

He apparently sneaked into the campus building housing the Spectator offices by following someone who swiped a valid ID card. He didn’t find anyone in the newsroom so instead took his wrath out on an employee in the CU development office — calling up an old Spectator article mentioning his role in the murder on his smartphone.

As a Columbia student tells the Times, “He had a very aggressive, tense conversation with someone whose desk is visible from the doorway. … From his tone and what he was saying, his body language, the receptionist had her finger on the panic button the whole time.”

Capital New York: “[P]olice could charge him with criminal trespass and harassment if they catch him. A detective at the 26th precinct confirmed that they are working with Columbia Public Safety to investigate the incident.”

1In the meantime, Spectator staffers have been warned via email to steer clear of the newsroom: “A convicted felon who is considered dangerous has made threats against Spec[tator] because of an article the paper published about him in the 1970s. We don’t feel that it’s safe for anyone to be in the office as the cops pursue the suspect. This is a serious situation, but I don’t want any of you to be concerned for your safety.”

For his part, Mingues says his campus visit has been perceived as more confrontational and scary than it actually was. As he shares with the New York Post, “I told [an employee] I was there about an article involving my past. I didn’t say nothing [threatening]. … I’m trying to change my life around. I did my time for that. I have a kid now. I made a promise to my family. I have been home 15 years now. I’m not going back.”

It’s unclear if the newsroom is still closed at the moment. I’ve reached out to the Spectator’s top editors and publisher for the latest on the situation and will update this post if and when I hear from them.

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