Fed official: Colorado men no ‘true’ threat to Obama
August 26, 2008
DENVER ” A group of suspected drug users arrested in Denver this weekend with methamphetamine, guns and bulletproof vests made racist remarks against Democratic nominee Barack Obama but are just “a bunch of meth heads” who posed no true threat to the candidate, federal authorities said Tuesday.
The three men ” all high on methamphetamine when arrested ” are the subject of a probe into whether racist comments by two of them about Obama merit federal charges. So far, authorities say, it appears the men had no capacity to carry out any attack on Obama.
“The law recognizes a difference between a true threat ” one that can be carried out ” and the reported racist rantings of a drug addict,” U.S. Attorney Troy Eid (EYED) declared.
All three are being held on drug and weapons charges.
An affidavit released by Eid’s office Tuesday showed the investigation into alleged threats began with an unnamed female who was with the men ” Tharin Gartrell, 28; Shawn Robert Adolf, 33; and Nathan Johnson, 32 ” while they were doing drugs in a Denver hotel room last weekend.
The woman told police that the men were calling Obama a “nigger” and saying he shouldn’t live in the White House.
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Adolf and Johnson made similar racist statements to police, but Eid said that authorities determined there wasn’t any firm plot to harm Obama.
“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.”
“It was more aspirational, perhaps, than operational,” Eid said of the men’s plans.
Obama will become the first black nominee for president by a major party at this week’s convention.
The investigation was triggered after police in Aurora, a suburb east of Denver, stopped a truck that was swerving erratically around 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The driver, Gartrell, had a suspended driver’s license, and the truck was rented in the name of another person, said Aurora police Detective Marcus Dudley.
Aurora police Lt. Bob Stef said police saw 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 IDs in other people’s names, Stef said.
Johnson and Adolf were arrested in area hotel rooms after interviews with Gartrell. Adolf jumped out a sixth-story window of a hotel when police arrived Sunday. He broke his ankle in the fall but tried to run before police found him a short distance away.
Adolf has been charged with drug possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, while Johnson and Gartrell were charged with meth possession.
Adolf and Johnson, both felons, also face charges of illegally possessing firearms and, in Adolf’s case, illegally possessing body armor.
Three senior FBI officials said it’s unclear whether shooters could have had a clear path to hit the stage from outside the stadium. At least two of the men may have had white supremacist ties, the officials said, adding that it was 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.
Adolf was hospitalized and is now being held on $1 million bond in Burlington, Colo., for several outstanding warrants involving drug charges. Burlington, in east Colorado, is in a county where Adolf faces outstanding warrants.
Adolf had a handcuff key in one hand and a swastika ring on the other when he was arrested, a senior FBI official said. Adolf was listed on the “Most Wanted” list of the Weld County, Colo., sheriff’s department for burglary, larceny, aggravated motor vehicle theft and other charges.
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.
Eid would not describe the woman who was allegedly doing drugs with the men or whether she was charged with a crime.
Gartrell lived in rural Nevada in the 1990s with his father, a journeyman ranch hand and heavy equipment operator, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said Tuesday.
Lee told the AP that Gartrell was run over by a truck as a child and that “it was absolutely amazing that he wasn’t hurt badly.”
As a teen, Gartrell tried to enroll at a high school about 80 miles north of Las Vegas, but provided transcripts from a high school in Colorado that showed “quite a bit of disciplinary action,” said Debi Smallwood, administrative aide to school Principal Steve Hansen. Gartrell was told he’d have to enroll in an alternative high school but never did, Smallwood said.