A 40-year-old Texas man was arrested after threatening to shoot and kill Pittsburgh Steelers players and fans during Sunday’s NFL playoff game, authorities say.
Yuttana Choochongkol, of San Antonio, threatened a mass shooting attack at Heinz Field during the Steelers AFC Divisional Round game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, KSAT-TV reports. Choochongkol sent threatening messages to a Pittsburgh news station and Heinz Field security.
“This Sunday’s playoff game in Pittsburgh is going to be like no other,” Choochongkol wrote in the threatening message, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by KSAT. “Why? Because it’s going to be my last day on this pathetic planet. So why not take some innocent lives with me?”
Choochongkol was arrested Friday night and booked into the Bexar County Jail on a charge of making a terroristic threat, online records show. It is not clear if he had a plan to travel to Pittsburgh ahead of Sunday’s game. He also uses the name Jason Monatham, according to KENS-TV. He was released on bail the day after his arrest, the news station reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Choochongkol Said He Planned to Take His Own ‘Pitiful Life’ & Thought ‘Why Not Take Out Some Million Dollar Steelers Players Before Me?’
Yuttana Choochongkol sent the threatening message via email to KDKA-TV on Thursday, KSAT-TV reports. According to police, Choochongkol wrote:
This Sunday’s playoff game in Pittsburgh is going to be like no other. Why? Because it’s going to be my last day on this pathetic planet. So why not take some innocent lives with me? The Steelers game will be packed, and that’s when I plan on killing Steelers football players and fans before taking my own pitiful life. After all, what does a person that is going to commit suicide have to lose? Absolutely nothing. So why not take out some million dollar Steelers players before me? Sounds like a good idea. Hahahahahah
A similar threat was also sent to the director of security for Heinz Field, according to KSAT. That threat was a “more in-depth suicide/mass shooting” plot that was uploaded through the stadium’s contact us portal on its website, according to KENS-TV.
The news station and Heinz Field contacted police and the FBI, which began investigating the threats on Thursday. The game was played Sunday at 1 p.m. in Pittsburgh. Police did not say in court documents if they believed Choochongkol was actually planning on traveling to Pittsburgh for the game. He was arrested Friday night.
2. The FBI Tracked the Threatening Messages to Worldwide Clinical Trials, Where Choochongkol Has Been a Medical Trial Subject More Than 25 Times
The FBI was able to track the messages to an IP address used by Worldwide Clinical Trials of San Antonio, which is located in the 2400 block of Northeast Loop 410, KENS-TV reports. Investigators went to the facility and found two computers used to send the threats, according to the news station. Interviews and surveillance video led them to Yuttana Choochongkol, also known as Jason Monatham, as the suspect, according to the arrest affidavit obtained by KENS.
Choochongkol admitted to using the computers, but did not admit to making any threats and said he has no knowledge of them. He did also admit to researching Heinz Field’s website and the Pittsburgh news station’s website, both of which received the threatening messages, police said in the affidavit.
Worldwide Clinical Trials told police that Choochongkol has been a medical trial subject with the company 25 times since 2011, KSAT-TV reports. Details of what those medical trials consisted of were not immediately available.
The company says on its website, “Worldwide is the first customer-centric CRO. Founded by physicians dedicated to advancing medical science and built on an unwavering commitment to operational excellence, we are able to strategically balance science, medicine, operations, and commercial intelligence to achieve successful drug development. We take a never satisfied approach. Tackling every clinical research program as an opportunity to demonstrate a deep commitment to each client’s unique needs. Combining therapeutic expertise – most notably in Neuroscience, Cardiovascular, Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Disease, and Rare Disease – with proactive insights and rigorous operations, we successfully manage clinical trials across more than 60 countries.”
According to its Facebook page, World Wide Clinical Trials has been in operation since 1984:
Since 1984, healthy adults have come to our facilities to participate in both overnight and outpatient clinical research studies to test new drugs for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Many people participate because they want to help advance medical science, however, qualified participants are compensated for the time they spend in the study, as well as travel time.The majority of Clinical Research Services’ participants are repeat visitors. They find it’s an ideal time to relax, read a book or watch a movie−and get paid for doing it. The friendly staff and comfortable facilities keep them returning time and time again. Participants also enjoy meeting new people and creating lasting friendships.
The company is headquartered in North Carolina.
On the San Antonio site’s Facebook page, the company explains the process of becoming a medical trial subject.
“During this interview, you’ll be asked a series of questions about your medical history. If you meet the initial requirements on the phone, you’ll be scheduled to come into our facility for a screening session including a complete physical exam that usually includes lab work, an EKG and an evaluation by a physician at our expense,” the company explains. “The Clinical Research Services staff will explain the study details at this time and give you all of the requirements. Many studies require that you stop consuming alcohol, grapefruit, caffeine and other products for a designated amount of time before you begin a study. Medications are similarly restricted. If you pass the on-site screening, your study date will be scheduled.”
3. He Was Charged in October With Failure to Provide ID to a Police Officer & Has Convictions for Theft & Drug Possession
Choochongkol has been arrested multiple times in Bexar County, with a criminal record dating back to 2003, according to online records.
His most recent arrest was on October 5, 2017, when he was charged with failure to provide identification to a police officer. He was released on $1,000 bail on October 6. He is scheduled to return to court January 30 in that case. Further details were not immediately available.
He was arrested in December 2007 on a charge of theft of an item worth between $50 to $500, records show. He pleaded guilty in February 2008 and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
In February 2003, Choochongkol was charged with possession of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty in July 2003 and was sentenced to two years in prison, with credit for 153 days served. In a separate case that was adjudicated during the same July 2003 court hearing, Choochongkol was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to theft of between $1,500 to $20,000. He was arrested in that case in December 2002.
4. Choochongkol Faces 10 Years in Prison if Convicted of the Terroristic Threat Charge, a 3rd-Degree Felony
Choochongkol was booked into the Bexar County jail on Friday, according to online records. It is not clear when he is scheduled to appear in court. It is also not known if he has hired an attorney. He could not be reached for comment.
He was charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a third-degree felony. According to Texas law, a third-degree felony carries a sentence of between 2 to 10 years in prison.
Choochongkol is being held on a state charge filed in Bexar County, Texas, court, but it is not clear if federal authorities will also seek to bring charges against him. The FBI and U.S. Attorneys offices in Texas and Pittsburgh have not commented about the case.
5. The Steelers Say They Take All Threats Seriously & Are ‘Thankful’ for the ‘Hard Work & Attention That Our Law Enforcement Provides to Our Communities.
Burt Lauten, the Steelers director of communications, said in a statement, “The Heinz Field website received a threat concerning the playoff game vs. Jacksonville. We take all threats seriously and turned over information to the FBI and the City of Pittsburgh Police. We are thankful law enforcement was able to identify and track down the individual to make an arrest. We appreciate the hard work and attention that our law enforcement provides to our communities.”
Wendell Hissrich, director of Pittsburgh Public Safety, said in a statement, “Pittsburgh Police and the FBI worked diligently to arrest a Texas man accused of threatening Steelers players and fans attending Sunday’s game. I want to thank the FBI for their rapid and thorough investigation into this matter. Threats of this nature are taken very seriously to ensure the safety of residents, members of the Steelers organization, and all fans.”
On Twitter, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, said, “Thank you @FBIPittsburgh & @PghPolice on your coordinated efforts. Although much of your work go unnoticed or protected, your continuous service to protect is constantly appreciated.”
There were no incidents reported at Heinz Field on Sunday. It is not known if authorities stepped up security measures as a result of the threats. The Steelers lost the game to the Jaguars.