U.S. Attorney: Obama Not Endangered By Threats

Posted August 26, 2008 at 8:00pm

U.S. Attorney Troy Eid told reporters Tuesday that the three Colorado men who threatened to kill Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) were “meth heads” who appeared to pose no real threat to the Democratic presidential nominee.

“There is insufficient information at this time to indicate a true threat of crime or conspiracy against Sen. Obama,” he said, attributing the threats to Obama’s life as “racist rantings” by drug addicts. “They didn’t reveal a plan. I think what you see in the affidavit is a lot of racist ranting and a lot of hatred for Sen. Obama as an African-American to take a position at that level.”

Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28, Nathan Dwayne Johnson, 32, and Shawn Robert Adolf, 33, were charged with various offenses, mostly stemming from possession of firearms, methamphetamines and drug-making materials.

Adolf was wanted on several outstanding warrants, one for $1 million, and was transferred to Burlington, Colo.

But Eid said federal prosecutors are not currently seeking any federal charges related to the threats to Obama, though he said the investigation is ongoing.

The threats to Obama appeared to all occur privately, and the three men and two unidentified women who were also interviewed in connection with the threats told roughly similar, though not identical, versions of their conversations to police.

Police discovered the alleged plot after an Aurora police officer stopped Gartrell at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday for driving erratically in his blue Dodge pickup.

After discovering that Gartrell’s license was suspended, the officer searched his truck and found a loaded Ruger rifle with a hunting scope, an unloaded Remington rifle with a scope, five boxes of ammunition, a bullet-proof vest, two-way radios and wigs. The car was rented from Enterprise by Johnson.

Through interviews with Gartrell, police later tracked down Johnson and Adolf. Johnson was arrested at the Denver Tech Center Hyatt Hotel at 7800 E. Tufts St., while Adolf was found at the Cherry Creek Hotel in Glendale, Colo.

Before being arrested, Adolf jumped from his room on the hotel’s sixth floor to a roof below and then jumped again, injuring his ankle in the process.

The plot came out when police questioned the men about why they were carrying the weapons.

Johnson told investigators that Adolf had threatened to kill Obama and that he believed Gartrell was in Denver to help. And Gartrell admitted to police that in a conversation about Obama, there was a reference to a “shooting on a grassy knoll.”

“Johnson further related that Adolf said he wanted to kill Obama on the day of his inauguration and additionally stated that Adolf would specifically use a 22-250 sniper rifle and high powered scope, and find high ground to set up and shoot Obama,” the affidavit reads. He also told investigators that “there were no political reasons for wanting to kill Obama, and that the only reason to kill Obama is because Obama is black.”

An unnamed female also said Adolf, Gartrell and Johnson began talking about Obama while on drugs, though she didn’t mention threats to kill him.

Using racial slurs, she told investigators that the three men were talking about how Obama was black and couldn’t believe that a black man could ever live in the White House, according to the affidavit.

She said Adolf believed that Obama was staying on the third floor of the Hyatt hotel they were in.

Eid pointed to such inconsistencies when explaining why the threats did not seem to reach a legal threshold, where intent and means has to be proven.

“The thing you got to remember: They were all meth heads. One meth head talking to another meth head on life,” he said. The drug, he added, makes you “do really stupid things.”