DNC: FBI investigates Denver threats against Obama
August 26, 2008
DENVER ” Federal authorities are looking into reports that a man arrested after officers found rifles, ammunition and drugs in his truck may have made threats against Barack Obama, officials said Monday.
Two other men were arrested in the case.
“It’s premature to say that it was a valid threat or that these folks have the ability to carry it out,” said a U.S. government official familiar with the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Obama will be in Denver this week to accept the Democratic nomination for president.
FBI spokeswoman Kathy Wright confirmed the FBI was investigating the reports but declined to elaborate. The Joint Information Center ” a command set up by Denver, state and federal authorities to field media inquiries during the Democratic convention ” said it had no immediate comment.
Tharin Gartrell, 28, was arrested during a traffic stop early Sunday by police in the eastern Denver suburb of Aurora. In his truck, officers found two rifles, including one with a scope; a bulletproof vest; boxes of ammunition; walkie-talkies; and suspected narcotics, said Aurora police Detective Marcus Dudley.
Police alerted federal authorities, who soon arrested Nathan Johnson, 32, at a hotel in Denver, Dudley said. A third man, Shawn Robert Adolf, 33, was arrested at a suburban Glendale hotel, Dudley said.
Adolf tried to escape officers by jumping from a sixth-floor window. He was hospitalized and was being held on $1 million bond for several outstanding warrants involving drug charges. Johnson also was being held on drug charges and his bond was unknown, Dudley said.
It wasn’t known if the three men had attorneys, Dudley said.
Dudley didn’t say what tied the men together but that more arrests were possible.
One of the rifles was stolen, and authorities had traced it to Kansas, possibly Goodland, Dudley said. He declined to say to whom it belonged.
Aurora police alerted federal officials because of heightened security surrounding the Democratic convention, Dudley said.
“Clearly we found there are federal implications ” otherwise we would not have notified them,” he said. “The weapons clearly would cause great concern.”
U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said the case was under investigation.
“We’re absolutely confident there is no credible threat to the candidate, the Democratic National Convention, or the people of Colorado,” Eid said in a prepared statement.
Earlier Monday, Dudley said Gartrell was being investigated for methamphetamine and firearms violations. Gartrell has no known address, Dudley said.
Law enforcement in Denver is trying to find out whether the reported threats to Obama were valid. “It could also turn out that these were nothing but a bunch of knuckleheads, meth heads,” the U.S. government official said.
Gartrell was being held at the Arapahoe County jail on $50,000 bail on a felony charge of special offender, drug violations. The jail said he didn’t have a lawyer yet but was due in court Thursday.
Officials with the FBI, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Aurora police set a news conference for Tuesday afternoon.
The string of arrests began when an Aurora patrol saw Gartrell’s truck swerving erratically at 1:30 a.m. Gartrell had a suspended driver’s license, and he was driving a truck rented in the name of another person, said Dudley, who didn’t elaborate.
Johnson was arrested at 4:30 a.m., and Adolf at 5 a.m., Dudley said.
Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report.