Gun charges expected in alleged Obama plot
August 26, 2008
DENVER ” High-powered rifles, three fake IDs and two wigs in the car of a man arrested in suburban Denver over the weekend led to the investigation of a possible plot to assassinate Barack Obama.
But on Tuesday, federal authorities indicated three men facing drug and gun charges never posed a real threat to Obama, who this week becomes the first black nominee for president by a major party.
“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.
Lt. Bob Stef of the Aurora Police Department says 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell was pulled over in a rented Dodge truck in a routine traffic stop early Sunday. Police saw two scoped rifles, 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.
The items triggered a federal assassination investigation in advance of Obama’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
Two other men were arrested in area hotel rooms after interviews with Gartrell ” Nathan Johnson and Shawn Robert Adolf, who jumped out a sixth-story window of a hotel when police arrived Sunday. Adolf broke his ankle in the fall but tried to run. Police found him a short distance away.
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A news conference to discuss the charges was expected later Tuesday.
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 Thursday, the day of his acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High.
“He don’t belong in political office. Blacks don’t belong in political office. He ought to be shot,” Johnson told KCNC-TV in a late-night interview from jail. By Tuesday, Johnson was declining media requests for interviews. He did not speak at a bond hearing where he was given $10,000 bond. The low bond amount, though, indicated authorities don’t believe he was capable of assassinating Obama.
Three senior FBI officials said it’s unclear whether any of the men 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. Interviews with Gartrell led to Johnson, 32, who was arrested at a Denver hotel. Johnson was held on drug charges.
A half-hour later, 33-year-old Adolf jumped from the 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. 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.
Gartrell lived in rural Nevada in the 1990s with his father, Carl “Flash” Gartrell, 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.