A Texas man, ranting on social media about the congressional response to the coronavirus outbreak, has been charged with making death threats to Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
Gavin Weslee Blake Perry of Wichita Falls, Texas, wrote on his personal Facebook page on Monday that Ms Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, was part of a satanic cult and that she and other Democrats should be killed, authorities said.
Prosecutors said that Mr Perry wrote: “If you’re a dem or apart of the establishment in the democrats side I view you as a criminal and a terrorist and I advise everyone to Go SOS and use live rounds.”
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The post, which used an abbreviation for “shoot on sight”, appeared beneath a screenshot of a tweet by senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, that was critical of Donald Trump’s handling of the health emergency.
A second tweet, written by someone impersonating Mr Schumer and criticising Mr Trump for banning travellers from entering the United States from China, also appeared in the post.
“Shoot to kill,” Mr Perry wrote, according to prosecutors. “This is a revolution.”
Mr Perry was charged with transmitting a threatening communication in interstate commerce and faces up to five years in prison.
Mr Perry, who was arrested on Wednesday and remains in custody, did not have a lawyer as of Thursday night, according to court records. He made an initial appearance in US District Court in Northern Texas on Thursday via videoconference.
His alleged screed came as Congress and the Trump administration were negotiating a $2 trillion (£1.6 trillion) stimulus package to reduce the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate approved the package on Wednesday and it has advanced to the House.
Prosecutors said that Mr Perry told the law enforcement officers who arrested him that they were violating his First Amendment right to free speech and that their actions were punishable by death.
“The Department of Justice takes the security of our public servants seriously,” Erin Nealy Cox, the US attorney for Northern Texas, said in a statement. “Americans are entitled to voice their opinions — but we will not allow them to threaten our officials’s physical safety.”
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The threats against Ms Pelosi were posted beneath an article from an anti-abortion website that Mr Perry shared on Facebook.
“Nancy pelosi is apart of a santanic cult and so are rhe people who work closly with her,” Mr Perry wrote, according to prosecutors. “Dems of the establishment will be removed at any cost necessary and yes that means by death.”
Ms Pelosi’s office declined to comment, and Mr Schumer’s office said it could not immediately comment on Thursday night.
This month, a Connecticut man was arrested on charges that he threatened to kill representative Adam Schiff, who was the lead impeachment manager in the House. Several other Democratic lawmakers have faced similar death threats.
Law enforcement officials said a concerned citizen tipped off local police about Mr Perry’s posts.
“The defendant threatened the life of an elected official and that will not be tolerated,” Matthew J DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge in Dallas, said in a statement.
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