Assassination threats against Barack Obama

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Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, has been the target of several assassination threats and alleged plots.

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, has been the target of several assassination attempts and alleged plots since he first became a presidential candidate in 2007. Secret Service protection for Obama began after the Senator received a death threat in 2007, when Obama was still serving as then the junior Senator of Illinois and running for president. This marked the first time a candidate received such protection before being nominated.[1] Security was increased early for Barack Obama due to fears of possible assassination attempts by white supremacist or other racist groups or individuals against the first African American major party presidential nominee.[2][3][4]

Some of the threats have been extended to members of Obama's family, including First Lady Michelle Obama.[5][6][7][8] Obama and his officials have generally declined to discuss death threats against him since entering the presidential race.[1][5] While some commentators have suggested the unusually high amount of death threats surrounding Obama are at least partially tied to the use of racist imagery and words used by some of Obama's critics to describe the president,[2] in 2009 the Secret Service stated that the volume of threats against Obama was "comparable to that under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton."[9]

2008[edit source | edit]

North Carolina Waffle House threats[edit source | edit]

Jerry Blanchard, an accountant from Charlotte, North Carolina, was indicted for threatening to kill Obama during a July 15, 2008, breakfast at a Charlotte Waffle House.[5][10] Two customers said Blanchard told them, "Obama and his wife are never going to make it to the White House. He needs to be taken out and I can do it in a heartbeat."[5] The customers contacted the Secret Service, who questioned Blanchard. He denied making the threats, but allegedly told the Secret Service agents he believed Obama was the "Antichrist" prophesied in the Bible.[5][10] The Secret Service later got a second call from an employee of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Charlotte,[11] where Blanchard was overheard in the lobby restroom saying into his cell phone, "I'll get a sniper rifle and take care of it myself. Somebody's got to do it ... We both know Obama is the anti-Christ."[5] Blanchard had claimed he would buy a sniper rifle and pistol from the Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte. The gun shop owner said Blanchard has visited the store but did not buy any weapons.[5] Blanchard was placed into custody on felony charges of making threats against a major candidate for president, and a psychiatric evaluation was ordered. It has been questioned how much evidence existed that he planned to actually go through with an assassination attempt.[5][10]

Miami bail-bondsman training threats[edit source | edit]

Raymond H. Geisel was charged with making threatening statements against Obama during a bail-bonds training class on July 31, 2008, in Miami, Florida.[10] During the course, Geisel referred to Obama with a racial epithet and said, "If he gets elected, I'll assassinate him myself."[2] Geisel also threatened to put a bullet in the head of then-President Bush, although Geisel later claimed he was joking. In his hotel room, authorities found ammunition, body armor, a combat-style hatchet, tear gas, a loaded 9 mm handgun and four loaded magazines. Geisel said he collected firearms, and was only using the gun for his bail-bonds course. Geisel remained in custody for a month.[2][10]

Assassination plot in Denver[edit source | edit]

Three men allegedly discussed shooting Barack Obama, then the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nominee, during his acceptance speech on the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Cousins Tharin Gartrell and Shawn Adolf, and their friend Nathan Johnson, allegedly came to Denver specifically to kill Obama, and discussed in their hotel room how they could assassinate him.[1][12][13][14] On August 24, 2008, Gartrell was arrested when police found his truck filled with weapons and narcotics.[15][16][17] Johnson and Adolf were arrested shortly thereafter and, during a televised interview, Johnson later indicated Adolf was the one who planned the alleged threat.[13][18] Authorities later downplayed the threats and indicated the trio had little chance of successfully killing Obama.[4][13]

Assassination plot in Tennessee[edit source | edit]

Paul Schlesselman and Daniel Cowart, two men with strong white supremacist beliefs, allegedly planned a murder spree of 88 African Americans in Tennessee, many of whom were to be young students at an unidentified, predominantly African-American school. They allegedly planned to end the spree by driving their vehicle toward Barack Obama as fast as they could and shooting at him from the windows.[19][20] The two men were arrested on October 22, 2008, after they bragged to their friends about firing shots at a church in Brownsville, Tennessee.[19][21] Schlesselman and Cowart were in possession of several guns during their arrest, and they allegedly told police they intended to rob a firearms dealer and other stores to secure more weapons for the attack.[22]

Scranton "Kill him" threat[edit source | edit]

In October 2008, it was widely reported that someone yelled "Kill him" at a Scranton, Pennsylvania, Sarah Palin rally when Obama's name was mentioned. The Secret Service denied this claim, but a Scranton Times-Tribune editor said, “We stand by the story. The facts reported are true and that’s really all there is.”[23] However, MSNBC clips of McCain rallies, while unclear, appear to show two similar incidents.[24]

2009[edit source | edit]

Hawaii threats against Michelle Obama[edit source | edit]

Kristy Lee Roshia, 35, called the Boston office of the Secret Service on November 10, 2009, and told them she planned to "blow away" First Lady Michelle Obama while the family visited Honolulu, Hawaii, for a Christmas vacation. She also indicated she planned to shoot members of the United States Marines Corps.[6][7][8] Roshia told authorities she knew "the exact location" the Obama family would be staying. Information that Roshia provided to the Boston office was consistent with the itinerary of the Obama family at the Secret Service office in Hawaii, and authorities believe Roshia had observed Secret Service agents in the area of the Kailua Beach home where the Obamas had previously stayed.[7] Roshia had a history of calling the Boston office and making threats, and told the agency in 2004 that she intended to assassinate then-President George W. Bush, although she contradictorily added that she had no desire to hurt him. Following her threatening call, Roshia was arrested two miles from the Honolulu house the Obama family had booked for their vacation. She allegedly struck an officer in the face and arms while he tried to detain her. Roshia was charged with threatening a family member of the president and assaulting a federal agent while being arrested.[6] A federal judge has ordered Roshia to undergo a mental competency examination.[7]

2010[edit source | edit]

Incident in North Carolina[edit source | edit]

On April 25, 2010, Joseph McVey, 23, was arrested in Asheville, North Carolina. Police say he impersonated a police officer at the city's airport as the President left the airport on Air Force One. McVey is being held on a charge of going armed to the terror of the public as well as being charged for false impersonation of a police officer, according to the Buncombe County jail's booking office. McVey's bail was set at $100,000. Airport police Capt. Kevan Smith said the suspect was driving a car that was made to look like a law enforcement vehicle with working lights and sirens. He would provide no further details about the suspect, but emphasized that the president was never in any danger.[25]

As a result of a trial in North Carolina following the arrest, the original charge of going armed to the terror of the public was dismissed due to a lack of supporting facts. During the trial, police who arrested McVey revealed that nothing McVey had in his vehicle, a Pontiac Grand Prix (a vehicle no law enforcement agency regularly uses), was there without valid reason for his public service volunteering in Ohio. Further, McVey was found guilty of a violation of city ordinance (the same charge applied to those caught skateboarding on a city sidewalk).[citation needed]

2011[edit source | edit]

Khalid Kelly[edit source | edit]

In May 2011 Irish Islamist militant Khalid Kelly was arrested for threatening to assassinate Barack Obama. In an interview with the Sunday Mirror he said that al-Qaeda was likely to kill Obama on his upcoming trip to Ireland. He reportedly said he would like to do it himself, but was too well known. He stated, "Personally I would feel happy if Obama was killed. How could I not feel happy when a big enemy of Islam is gone?"[26]

Shots fired at White House[edit source | edit]

On the night of November 11, 2011, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez fired a Romanian Cugir semiautomatic rifle from his car parked on Constitution Avenue. Nine rounds were fired, one of which was found lodged in a window of the first family's living quarters. He was arrested five days later in a hotel in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Obama was not at the White House at the time of the shooting, but was at an APEC Meeting in Hawaii. Nevertheless, Federal prosecutors launched an investigation to determine if Hernandez acted out of hatred for Obama.[27] Subsequently, writings by Hernandez and testimony from those who knew him showed that he believed President Obama was the antichrist and the "devil".[28][dead link]

2012[edit source | edit]

Plot by anarchist militia within US Army[edit source | edit]

In 2012, a case was brought against four U.S. Army soldiers in the U.S. state of Georgia claiming that they formed a paramilitary anarchist militia within the U.S. military with plans to overthrow the U.S. federal government. Private First Class Michael Burnett pleaded guilty to manslaughter and gang charges in the December 2011 slayings of former soldier Michael Roark and his girlfriend Tiffany York who were killed because they knew of the militia group’s plans. The group purchased $87,000 worth of guns and bomb-making materials and plotted to take over Fort Stewart, bomb targets in Savannah and Washington state, and assassinate the president.[29]

2013[edit source | edit]

Death ray plot[edit source | edit]

In 2013, two men in Albany, New York were arrested after allegedly building a radioactive "death ray" device and plotting to use it against Muslims and other perceived enemies of the United States and Israel, including Obama[30] The men, Glenn Scott Crawford and Eric J. Feight, were arrested by the FBI after a 15-month operation involving FBI agents posing as co-conspirators. Crawford was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and a Tea Party organization.[31]

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ a b c Maggs, John; Freidman, Dan (2008-08-27). "Authorities play down plot against Obama". National Journal. 
  2. ^ a b c d Parks, Gregory S.; Heard, Danielle C. (2009). ""Assassinate the Nigger Ape": Obama, Implicit Imagery, and the Dire Consequences of Racist Jokes" (PDF). Cornell Law School Working Papers: 2. 
  3. ^ Riccardi, Nicholas (2008-08-26). "Men's threat to kill Obama is downplayed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  4. ^ a b Johnson, Kirk; Lichtblau, Eric (2008-08-26). "Officials see no "credible threat" to Obama in racist rants". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Bradley, Jim (2008-08-08). "Charlotte Man Charged With Making Threats Against Obama". Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  6. ^ a b c Bonnett, Tom (2009-12-23). "Woman "Threatened to Murder" Michelle Obama". Sky News. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  7. ^ a b c d Dooley, Jim (2009-12-23). "Oahu woman to undergo mental exam after allegedly threatening first lady". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  8. ^ a b "US woman held after 'threat to kill' Michelle Obama". BBC News. 2009-12-22. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  9. ^ "Secret Service: No more threats against Obama than Bush, Clinton", CNN, December 4th, 2009"; Glenn Thrush, "Secret Service: Threat level against Obama no greater than under Bush, Clinton", Politico, December 3, 2009. Accessed November 26, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d e Cardona, Felisa (2008-09-03). "Local Obama plot case lures N.C. lawyer". The Denver Post. 
  11. ^ "Man indicted for Obama threat". United Press International. 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  12. ^ Cardona, Felisa (2008-08-29). "1 of 3 men in Obama threat case in court on drug charge". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  13. ^ a b c Wyatt, Kristen; Jordan, Lara Lakes (2008-08-26). "Fed official: Colo. men no "true" threat to Obama". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  14. ^ Gardner, David (2008-08-27). "White supremacists cleared of gun plot to assassinate Barack Obama". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  15. ^ Piazza, Jo; Meek, James Gordon; Kennedy, Helen (2008-08-27). "Feds: Trio of would-be Obama assassins not much of "threat"". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  16. ^ Ensslin, John C.; Villa, Judi; Washington, April M. (2008-08-26). "U.S. attorney "confident" Obama not threatened". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  17. ^ Otis, Ginger Adams; Venezia, Todd (2008-08-26). "Would-be assassins had seething hatred for Barack Obama". New York Post. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  18. ^ Burnett, Sara (2008-09-03). "Drug suspect wanted to shoot Obama at Invesco". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  19. ^ a b Date, Jack (2008-10-27). "Feds thwart alleged Obama assassination plot.". ABC News. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  20. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (2008-10-27). "Arrests in plan to kill Obama and black schoolchildren". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  21. ^ Baird, Woody; DeMillo, Andrew (2008-10-30). "Authorities say skinhead plot wasn't fully formed". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-11-04. [dead link]
  22. ^ Jordan, Lara Lakes (2008-10-27). "Feds disrupt skinhead plot to assassinate Obama". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-28. [dead link]
  23. ^ Seder, Andrew M. (October 17, 2008). "Secret Service says "Kill him" allegation unfounded". Times Leader. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  24. ^ "MSNBC video coverage on death threats shouted at McCain rallies.". MSNBC. 
  25. ^ "Man arrested after Obama leaves North Carolina". CNN. 2010-04-25. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  26. ^ AP Irish Muslim arrested in Dublin over Obama threats[dead link]
  27. ^ Jackson, David (17 November 2011). "Man charged with Obama assassination attempt". USA Today. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  28. ^ Gresko, Jessica (17 November 2011). "Idaho man charged with trying to assassinate Obama". AP. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  29. ^ Bynum, Russ (27 August 2012), "Case uncovers terror plot by soldiers to kill Obama", USA Today, retrieved 18 September 2012 
  30. ^ US: two men charged with building ‘death rays’ to kill enemies of US and Israel. euronews
  31. ^ "U.S. charges two New Yorkers with building 'death ray' aimed at killing 'enemies of Israel'".