Armed man arrested near Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh's home; made threats against the justice
The arrest comes after recent protests at the homes of several high court justices, including Kavanaugh's, since the leak of a draft opinion last month revealed that Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
- Attorney General Merrick Garland: The alleged conduct "strikes at the heart of democracy."
- Garland moved last month to increase security around the justices.
- Congress is considering proposals about security for the justices' families and Supreme Court staff.
An armed man who allegedly made threats against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was arrested early Wednesday near the justice's suburban Washington, D.C. home, a court spokesperson and a local police official told USA TODAY.
The suspect, identified in court records as Nicholas John Roske of California, was arrested about 1:50 a.m. and transported to a local Montgomery County, Maryland Police district after allegedly calling a local 911 dispatcher claiming to be armed, suicidal and that he had traveled to the area to "kill" a Supreme Court justice.
Authorities later recovered a Glock pistol, a tactical knife, pepper spray, zip ties, hammer and crow bar from a pack he was carrying.
Kavanaugh and his family were home at the time, according to a person familiar with the incident.
The incident came at a fraught moment for the Supreme Court, as the justices are weighing a case that could fundamentally alter reproductive rights throughout the nation as well as a Second Amendment appeal that could vastly expand Americans' ability to carry guns in public. Those two cases in particular, both of which are expected to be decided this month, have put more attention and outside political pressure on the justices than at any time in years.
Roske made an initial appearance Wednesday in a Maryland federal court. He was asked a few questions, voluntarily consented to being detained and was ordered held, David Ciambruschini, the Chief Deputy Clerk at U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland told USA TODAY.
Reached after the hearing, Federal Public Defender Andrew Szekely, who was appointed to represent Roske, confirmed that he made an initial court appearance and that another court date has been set for June 22.
Roske faces charges of attempted murder of a Supreme Court justice, according to a statement released by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron.
If convicted, Roske faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for attempted murder of a United States judge.
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Efforts to reach Roske’s parents and sister for comment were unsuccessful. A man listed in school records as Roske’s grandfather, Dan Shannon, told USA TODAY, “Oh no, I can’t talk right now, thank you.”
An official at Simi Valley High School confirmed that Roske attended the school about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles from August 2010 until his graduation on May 29, 2014. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly, said school records showed only one disciplinary event for Roske, in which he allegedly accidentally pushed another student during class hours.
Montgomery County police received a call for service at 1:42 a.m. to a location near Kavanaugh's house and made the arrest, according to Shiera Goff, director of the Montgomery County Office of the Police Chief's Public Information Office.
The FBI took over the investigation Wednesday morning.
The arrest was first reported by The Washington Post.
According to court records, two U.S. deputy marshals saw an individual dressed in black clothing and carrying a backpack and a suitcase, get out of a taxicab that had stopped in front of Kavanaugh's house. The individual, later identified as Roske, looked at the two deputy U.S. marshals, who were standing next to their parked vehicle, and then turned to walk down the street.
Shortly after, the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center received a call from Roske, who allegedly told the call taker that he was having suicidal thoughts and had a firearm in his suitcase.
Montgomery County Police Department officers were dispatched to the scene and encountered Roske, who was still on the phone with an emergency operator, according to the court records.
Roske told investigators following his arrest that he was angry about the leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion signaling that the nation's highest court is preparing to overturn Roe. v. Wade, the landmark decision that established the constitutional right to abortion.
Roske told a Montgomery County police detective that he was also upset about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, and that he believed "the Justice that he intended to kill would side with Second Amendment decisions that would loosen gun control laws," FBI special agent Ian Montijo said in an affidavit.
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Roske also allegedly told investigators that he targeted the justice after “thinking about how to give his life a purpose,” according to court documents, adding that he found the justice’s Montgomery County address during an online search.
“Roske further indicated that he had purchased the Glock pistol and other items for the purpose of breaking into the justice’s residence and killing the justice as well as himself," Montijo also said in the affidavit.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden condemns the actions of the individual "in the strongest terms."
Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the arrest during remarks at the Justice Department Wednesday, saying the alleged action "strikes at the heart of democracy."
Last month, Garland moved to bolster justices' security amid continuing protests over the leaked draft opinion, which ignited a firestorm of controversy after it was reported and published in full by Politico.
Following a meeting with federal law enforcement officials including the Supreme Court's chief security official, Garland said in May authorities would "take all appropriate actions to further enhance the security of justices and the court."
That meeting came after protesters took the unprecedented step of marching to justices' homes. At that time, Garland directed the U.S. Marshals Service to assist in providing 24-hour security.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Wednesday said the arrest is "exactly the kind of event many feared that the terrible breach of the court’s rules and norms could fuel."
Last month, the Senate moved quickly to pass the Supreme Court Policy Parity Act with unanimous bipartisan support. The legislation would extend security measures to immediate family members of Supreme Court justices.
The legislation followed the protests at the homes of justices after the leak of the draft abortion opinion, but the bill has languished in the House where it is yet to be brought to the floor for a vote.
House Democrats have argued the legislation passed in the Senate doesn't go far enough in providing security for those who work for the Supreme Court, such as law clerks and other staffers who have "increasingly faced threats to their physical safety."
"We believe that it is critical to safeguard the families of those who choose to serve their country and their communities as judicial clerks and staff as well," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a May statement.
Hoyer also said Congress should enact a separate measure, called the Supreme Court Families Security Act, which would provide security for the families of the justices as well.
Without endorsing any specific bill, Jean-Pierre said Biden supports legislation to fund increased security for the high court.
“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,” she told reporters. “Any violence, or threats of violence, or attempts to intimidate justices have no place in our society.”
Contributing: Dylan Wells, Phillip Bailey, Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY