Four linked to DNC sniper threat against Obama

Feds: Obama threat suspects 'meth heads'
August 26, 2008 7:13:41 PM PDT
Three men are facing gun charges in an alleged threat against presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama. Federal investigators called the men 'meth heads," a term referring to drug abusers, with big mouths who enjoyed boasting about a plot to kill the Illinois senator from Chicago. But because some of the suspects have ties to white power groups, the FBI took no chances with the group. Agents found two rifles with scopes, a supply of ammo, wigs, a bulletproof vest, fake I.D.s, ski masks and walkie talkies, officials said.

Nathan Johnson, 32, is being held on drug charges in the Denver City Jail. Johnson was quoted as saying he and his associates had discussed killing Obama during this week's Democratic National Convention. The plot was to be carried out from a perch overlooking Invesco Field where Obama is scheduled to deliver his nomination acceptance speech Thursday night.

During a court hearing Tuesday, Johnson's bail was set at $10,000. In a jailhouse interview, Johnson said of Obama that, "he don't belong in political office. Blacks don't belong in political office. He ought to be shot."

"They didn't reveal a plan, I think, which you can see in the affidavit was a lot of racist rantings and a lot of dislike for the idea of Senator Obama as an Afircan American, person of color, being able to assume that office," said US Attorney Troy Eid.

Federal sources say one of the men arrested said they were "going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a ... rifle sighted at 750 yards," far beyond the range of the weapons they had.

A Remington 270 rifle and .22 Ruger, both with scopes, and ammo were found in a rental pickup being driven by 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell, who has been charged with weapon and drug violations. Gartrell was arrested by a local patrolman Sunday in a traffic stop.

"He noticed that the driver of a vehicle was driving erratically. The maneuver appeared to be going from one lane into another lane. At that time of morning, clearly the concern would be that you would have a person driving under the influence of alcohol on the roads," said Det. Marcus Dudley, Aurora Police Department.

Some of the suspects have ties to white power organizations.

"Incident to Tharin Gartrell's arrest for the traffic violations, the sergeant discovered inside his truck a bullet-proof vest, two rifles, ammunition, walkie-talkies and drugs. Additional information was then developed that led to the arrest of others," said Dudley.

One of those arrested jumped from a sixth-floor hotel window near Denver when authorities arrived to arrest him. Shawn Robert Adolf, 33, was arrested at 5 a.m. Sunday. Adolf had seven outstanding warrants and is being held on $1 million bond.

Federal law enforcement sources described Adolph as a "longtime white supremacist thug" and added that at least one of the men is reportedly linked to the notorious Sons of Silence motorcycle gang.

Federal authorities filed a criminal complaint against Adolph Tuesday, charging him with unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of body armor by a violent felon and possession and intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Click here to read the complaint

Law enforcement officials were also investigating whether the men were linked to vandalism shootings that targeted at least two federal buildings in Denver in the past two weeks. Windows were shot out at the U.S. Custom House and the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Station on the same street in Denver's downtown federal district.

Police sources in Denver say a fourth person under arrest is Johnson's girlfriend, Natasha Gromek. She is being held on drug charges.

But the suspects were not being charged with threatening Obama's life. Authorities called their so-called plot "inspirational not operational" and said the threats were nothing more than the racist ranting of drug abusers.

"A bunch of meth heads get together, I don't know what they, I don't know what goes on inside their brains," said Eid. "There is insufficient evidence at this time to indicate a true threat, plot or conspiracy against Senator Barack Obama."

Adolph had threatened to kill Obama on a prior occasion, according to what federal agents say they were told by one of the suspects, that there were no political reasons the men wanted Obama dead. According to an FBI affidavit, the only reason they wanted "to kill Obama, is because Obama is black."


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