Obama plot gun charges expected
August 26, 2008
DENVER ” Three men who authorities initially feared were plotting to assassinate Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention are facing only gun charges ” signaling they never posed a real threat.
A federal law enforcement official in Denver said the three men and woman arrested on Sunday are not expected to be charged with making threatening statements, conspiracy or other national security-related crimes.
It’s possible ” but unlikely ” that additional charges could come later, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the charges have not yet been filed.
One of the men was arrested near Denver with two rifles, ammunition, walkie-talkies and suspected drugs. Federal officials say two other men and a woman were apprehended a few hours later.
A news conference to discuss the charges is expected at 6 p.m. EDT today.
The likelihood of an assassination attempt on Democratic presidential candidate Obama was downplayed by law enforcement officials in Colorado and Washington.
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“We’re absolutely confident there is no credible threat to the candidate, the Democratic National Convention, or the people of Colorado,” U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said in a statement.
One of the men arrested told KCNC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Denver, that others involved in the case had made racist statements regarding Obama and had discussed killing Obama on the day of the speech.
When asked if he felt there was a plot to kill Obama, Nathan Johnson said, “Looking back at it, I don’t want to say yes, but I don’t want to say no.” Johnson was interviewed while being held in jail on drug charges. He said he wasn’t involved in any plot.
Three senior FBI officials said it’s unclear whether any of them were serious about carrying out threats. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
A fourth federal official familiar with the investigation said an assassination attempt was unlikely.
“The capability and their opportunity and what they had for their weaponry ” I don’t see that they would have been able to carry it out,” the official said on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The action started around 1:30 a.m. Sunday when police in Aurora, a suburb east of Denver, stopped a truck that was swerving erratically. The driver, 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell, had a suspended driver’s license, and the truck was rented in the name of another person, said Aurora police Detective Marcus Dudley.
In the truck, officers found two rifles, including one with a scope; a bulletproof vest; boxes of ammunition; walkie-talkies; and suspected narcotics. On edge because of heightened security surrounding the Democratic convention in Denver, Aurora police alerted federal authorities.
Later Sunday, federal agents arrested Johnson, 32, at a hotel in Denver. He was held on drug charges. A half-hour later, 33-year-old Shawn Robert Adolf jumped from a sixth-story window when authorities tried to arrest him at a hotel in suburban Glendale, police said.
Adolf was hospitalized and was being held on $1 million bond for several outstanding warrants involving drug charges. He had a handcuff key in one hand and a swastika ring on the other when he was arrested, a senior FBI official said.
Dudley said Gartrell was being investigated for methamphetamine and firearms violations. Gartrell, who has no known address, was being held at the Arapahoe County jail on $50,000 bail on drug and weapons charges. The jail said he was due in court Thursday.
The third person arrested was a woman described by federal authorities as the girlfriend of one of the men.