Wednesday, August 27, 2008

U.S. Attorney Says Suspects Posed No Threat to Obama -- But Didn't Hide Their Racist Venom

At Least One Suspect -- Who Tried to Escape Arrest By Jumping Out of a Sixth-Floor Hotel Window -- is Thought to Have Ties to White-Supremacist Groups; Obama Campaign Office in GOP Convention City is Vandalized

Suspects Nathan Johnson (left) and Tharin Gartrell were arrested in a Denver suburb early Sunday in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, law-enforcement officials said late Monday night. Police found a cache of high-powered rifles, ammunition and drugs in Gartrell's truck after stopping him for driving erratically. But federal authorities said Tuesday they had no solid evidence the suspects intended to actually out an attack on the Illinois senator, who will formally accept the Democratic nomination in a widely-anticipated speech Thursday at Denver's Mile High Stadium. (Photos: Aurora, Colorado Police Department via Rocky Mountain News)

By Skeeter Sanders

A group of suspected methamphetamine users arrested in a Denver suburb on the weekend before the opening of the Democratic National Convention did not pose a threat to Barack Obama, despite possessing guns and bulletproof vests, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the suspects, all of them white, made no secret of their racist attitudes against the Illinois senator -- who will formally become his party's first-ever black presidential nominee on Thursday. And they're not likely to be the last.

Although U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said the suspects had no capacity to actually carry out an assassination attempt on Obama, the possibility of a racially-motivated attack on the senator cannot be totally dismissed.

"The law recognizes a difference between a true threat -- one that can be carried out -- and the reported racist rantings of a drug addict," Eid told reporters at a Denver news conference, adding that their threats were "more aspirational, perhaps, than operational," and that they have not been formally charged with threatening to assassinate Obama.

The three have been charged, however, with drug and weapons offenses -- and Eid said that the federal investigation of the suspects' vague racist threats would continue.

According to an arrest affidavit released by Eid's office, one of the suspects, identified as Shawn Robert Adolph, 33, said that he wanted to kill Obama only because he is black. Adolph said he wanted to shoot the Illinois senator "on the day of his inauguration" in January if he wins the November election and that he would "find high ground to set up" and shoot him, the affidavit said.

But Eid said that despite Adolph's threatening talk, authorities could find no solid evidence of a plot to kill Obama. Asked what else the suspects could plan to do with the weapons, Eid replied, "I don't know what they were for," and pointed out that Adolph was under the influence of meth when he made his verbal threat.

"A bunch of meth heads get together, we don't know why they do what they do. ... People do lots of stupid things on meth," Eid said. "If you're talking about a true threat, there has to be some evidence they're not just talking about it or thinking about it, especially in a drug-induced state."

Case Began as a Traffic Stop for Impaired Driving

Police in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado arrested Tharin Gartrell, 28, after stopping him for driving a truck erratically in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning. Gartrell was found to have a suspended driver's license, and the truck was rented under someone else's name, said Aurora police Detective Marcus Dudley.

Police found two scoped rifles, two wigs, camouflage clothing, a bulletproof vest and two walkie-talkies in the truck. A search also revealed 4.4 grams of what police believed to be methamphetamine and three identification cards in other people's names.

One of the rifles is listed as stolen from Kansas, police said.

Adolph and a third man, identified as Nathan Johnson, 32, as well as Johnson's girlfriend, Natasha Gromek, of undetermined age, were arrested at an area hotel after police interviewed Gartrell. Adolph attempted to elude police by jumping out a sixth-floor window, falling to the second-floor roof of the hotel's restaurant, breaking his ankle on impact.

Despite his injury, Adolph tried to run before police apprehended him a short distance away.

Suspects May Have Ties to White-Supremacist Groups

Local law-enforcement authorities believe the men may have ties to an outlaw biker gang with suspected connections to white supremacists, Denver television station KCNC-TV reported Monday. However, federal sources told the station that the incident may have had more to do with drugs than with a plot to assassinate Obama, despite local police claims.

Florida Man Arrested August 1 for Allegedly Threatening Obama, Bush

The arrests marked the second time in less than a month that authorities have made arrests over alleged threats to kill Obama. On August 1, police arrested a man in Florida who reportedly threatened both Obama and President Bush.

Raymond Hunter Geisel, 22, was interviewed and later arrested by agents of the Secret Service's Miami field office.

According to a Secret Service affidavit, Geisel, using a racially derogatory term, told a fellow student that if Senator Obama won November's election, "I'll assassinate him myself'."

Another student in the class told a Secret Service agent that she had heard Geisel say that "he hated George W. Bush and that he wanted to put a bullet in the president's head," according to the affidavit.

A search of Geisel's car and home yielded a machete, a loaded 9-millimeter handgun, a combat-style hatchet, knives, 40 rounds of 9-millimeter armor-piercing bullets, two canisters of tear gas and other items.

During his interview with Secret Service agents, Geisel denied making threats against Senator Obama or President Bush, but did state that "if he wanted to kill Senator Obama he simply would shoot him with a sniper rifle, but then he claimed that he was just joking," according to the Secret Service affidavit.

Geisel will face prosecution under a federal law that renders making threats against the president or a major presidential candidate a crime.

Asked how many such threats occur each year, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said Secret Service policy was not to disclose a precise number but said that "many, many threats are investigated each year."

Obama Campaign Office in GOP Convention City Is Vandalized

Meanwhile, an Obama campaign office in St. Paul, Minnesota -- host city of next week's Republican National Convention -- was vandalized over the weekend.

KARE-TV in Minneapolis reported police arrived at the office -- located about 14 miles from the GOP convention site at the Xcel Energy Center downtown -- to find two large plate glass windows and a glass door completely smashed out.

There was also paint splattered both inside and outside the building. One person was inside at the time of the incident, but was not hurt, the station reported.

As of early Tuesday morning, police had no suspects.

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Volume III, Number 47
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.