WASHINGTON – A man armed with a pistol, a knife and other weapons was arrested near the Maryland home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh early Wednesday after he said he traveled from California to kill the Supreme Court justice, federal officials said.
Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was charged with attempted murder after two U.S. deputy marshals saw him step out of a taxi in front of the justice’s house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, early Wednesday, federal prosecutors said. Roske was dressed in black and carrying a suitcase and a backpack, according to a federal affidavit.
Inside the suitcase and backpack, the authorities later discovered a “black tactical chest rig and tactical knife,” a pistol with two magazines and ammunition, pepper spray, zip ties, a hammer, a screwdriver, a nail punch, a crowbar, a pistol light and duct tape, in addition to other items, according to the affidavit.
His plan was to break into the house, kill the justice and then kill himself, according to the affidavit.
Roske told police that he was upset about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and about a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion suggesting that the justices were poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guarantees the right to an abortion. There have been protests outside Kavanaugh’s home and the homes of the other justices since the leaked draft was published last month.
In addition to the abortion ruling, the justices could strike down a century-old New York state law that places strict limits on the carrying of handguns. Both decisions are expected to be issued this month.
“Roske indicated that he believed the justice that he intended to kill would side with Second Amendment decisions that would loosen gun control laws,” the affidavit said.
When Roske arrived and saw the two deputy marshals, who were standing next to their parked car, he started walking down the street, according to the affidavit.
Shortly thereafter, the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center received a call from Roske, who said he was having suicidal thoughts and had a firearm in his suitcase, according to the affidavit.
He said he had traveled from California to Maryland “to kill a specific United States Supreme Court Justice,” the affidavit said.
Officers from the Montgomery County Police Department arrived and found Roske still on the phone with the communications center.
Roske was taken into custody without incident, said Shiera Goff, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Police Department. If he is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Roske told police that he had begun thinking “about how to give his life a purpose” and decided to kill a Supreme Court justice after finding the justice’s address online, the affidavit stated.
The affidavit did not identify which justice Roske had threatened to kill, but Patricia McCabe, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court, confirmed that the arrest took place near Kavanaugh’s house around 1:50 a.m. Wednesday.
Roske appeared in U.S. District Court in Maryland Wednesday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan, who ordered that he be detained pending a later court hearing.
During the appearance, in which he represented by a public defender, Roske was asked if he understood what was happening and whether he was thinking clearly, The Associated Press reported. “I think I have a reasonable understanding, but I wouldn’t say I’m thinking clearly,” Roske responded. He said he was on medication but did not specify what, and he noted that he was a college graduate, the AP reported.
Efforts to reach family members of Roske for comment Wednesday were not immediately successful. Roske graduated from Simi Valley High School in 2014, Jake Finch, a spokesperson for the Simi Valley Unified School District, said by phone. Roske had been on the school’s cross-country team, Finch said.
Kenny Vergini said that he had been a classmate and friend of Roske’s at Simi Valley High School and that they had attended the same college through sophomore year, but noted that they had barely been in touch in several years.
“He was always very friendly, kind of outgoing for the most part once you got to know him,” Vergini said. He added that although Roske was “a little socially awkward,” he never expected him to do anything like what he was accused of doing on Wednesday.
The arrest was reported earlier by The Washington Post. In a statement, the FBI said it was aware of the arrest and that it was working with law enforcement agencies on an investigation.
As news of the arrest circulated Wednesday morning, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said in a statement that he had asked Attorney General Merrick Garland last month to increase security outside the justices’ homes.
“I call on leaders in both parties in Washington to strongly condemn these actions in no uncertain terms,” Hogan, a Republican, said. “It is vital to our constitutional system that the justices be able to carry out their duties without fear of violence against them and their families.”
At a news conference Wednesday to discuss the school shooting in Uvalde, Garland said that the threat against Kavanaugh was “behavior that we will not tolerate.” He added that last month he “accelerated the protection of all the justices’ residences 24/7,” and that he had met with the Supreme Court marshal, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals and his own prosecutors to “ensure every degree of protection available is possible.”
“Threats of violence, and actual violence, against the justices, of course, strike at the heart of our democracy,” Garland said. “We will do everything we can to prevent them, and to hold people who do them accountable.”
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden “condemns the actions of this individual in the strongest terms and is grateful to law enforcement for quickly taking him into custody.”
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“As the president has consistently made clear, public officials, including judges, must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety or that of their families,” Jean-Pierre said. “Any violence threats – threats of violence or attempts to intimidate justices – have no place in our society. He has said that himself, and we have been forceful from the podium many times.”
In a bulletin issued Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said that after the publication of the leaked draft opinion in the abortion case, advocates for and against abortion rights have “encouraged violence” on public forums, “including against government, religious, and reproductive health care personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, D-Ky., the minority leader, called on the House to pass a Supreme Court security bill that would provide police protection to the immediate families of the nine justices. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in May.
“No more fiddling around with this,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Pass it before the sun sets today.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement that Biden “needs to personally and forcefully condemn violence and threats against Supreme Court Justices.”
“Thank God that law enforcement stopped this lunatic,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.