Denver’s U.S. attorney is expected to speak on Tuesday afternoon about the arrests of four people suspected in a possible plot to shoot Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech in Denver. All are being held on either drug or weapons charges.
One of those suspects spoke exclusively to CBS4 investigative reporter Brian Maass from inside the Denver City Jail late Monday night and said his friends had discussed killing Obama.
"So your friends were saying threatening things about Obama?" Maass asked.
"Yeah," Nathan Johnson replied.
"It sounded like they didn’t want him to be president?"
"Well, no," Johnson said.
Maass reported earlier Monday that one of the suspects told authorities they were "going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a … rifle … sighted at 750 yards."
Law enforcement sources told Maass that one of the suspects "was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative."
The story began emerging Sunday morning when Aurora police arrested Tharin Gartrell, 28. He was driving a rented pickup truck in an erratic manner, according to sources.
Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, wigs, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and 44 grams of methamphetamine. One of the rifles is listed as stolen from Kansas.
Aurora police alerted federal officials because of heightened security surrounding the Democratic convention, Aurora police Det. Marcus Dudley said.
"Clearly we feel that there are federal implications — otherwise we would not have notified those agencies," Dudley said Monday night. "The weapons clearly would cause great concern."
Subsequently authorities went to the Cherry Creek Hotel in Glendale to contact an associate of Gartrell’s. But that man, identified as Shawn Robert Adolph, 33, who was wanted on numerous warrants, jumped out of a sixth floor hotel window. Law enforcement sources say Adolph broke an ankle in the fall and was captured moments later. Sources say he had a handcuff ring and was wearing a swastika, and is thought to have ties to white supremacist organizations.
Nathan Johnson, 32, an associate of Gartrell and Adolph, was also arrested Sunday morning. He told authorities that the two men had "planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech."
"He don’t belong in political office. Blacks don’t belong in political office. He ought to be shot," Johnson told Maass.
"Do you think they were really plotting to kill Obama?" Maass asked.
"I don’t want to say yes, but I don’t want to say no," he said.
Johnson’s girlfriend Natasha Gromek is also under arrest on drug charges.
The Secret Service, FBI, ATF and the joint terrorism task force are all investigating the alleged plot. Dudley didn’t say what tied the men together but said more arrests were possible.
Georgia10 from the DailyKos was at the same hotel, across the hall from the bust.
Ed O’Keefe from The Trail blog was right next door.
One gets the sense that this was a bunch of racist drugged-out redneck yahoos, rather than a serious well-funded assassination attempt. But still….