DENVER – A group of suspected drug users arrested in Denver this weekend with methamphetamine, guns and bulletproof vests made racist threats against Barack Obama but posed no true danger to the presidential candidate as he accepts the Democratic nomination here this week, federal authorities said Tuesday.
The three men – all said to be high on methamphetamine when arrested – are the subject of an assassination investigation, but so far, authorities say, it appears they 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 said.
He said the men’s plans were “more aspirational, perhaps, than operational.”
The three have been charged with drug and weapons offenses but not with threatening to assassinate Obama or with other national-security-related crimes.
Obama will become the first black nominee for president by a major party at this week’s convention.
Eid insisted that the vague racist threats from the men would continue to be investigated. He said he didn’t know whether Obama had been briefed on the arrests or whether security plans would change for Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday.
An affidavit released by Eid’s office Tuesday showed the investigation into alleged threats intensified 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 the men were using a racial epithet to refer to Obama and saying he shouldn’t live in the White House.
Johnson later told a federal agent that the men talked about assassinating Obama only because he was black, according to a federal arrest affidavit. Johnson said he also heard Adolf say that he wanted to kill Obama “on the day of his inauguration” and that he would “find high ground to set up and shoot Obama,” the affidavit said.
Eid said authorities determined there was no firm plot to harm Obama. Asked what else they could plan to do with the weapons, Eid said, “I don’t know what they were for.”
“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.”