Authorities: No Credible Threat Posed To Obama

The District Attorney explains that the men who were discovered with guns and body armor and who made racist slurs against Sen. Barack Obama may or may not have been planning an assassination. Video by Emily Freifeld/
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DENVER, Aug. 26 -- Authorities charged three Colorado men Tuesday with gun and drug violations but said they posed "no credible threat" to Sen. Barack Obama, despite an investigation that revealed they had discussed several assassination plots and possessed high-powered rifles, camouflage and other gear that could have been used in an assault.

U.S. Attorney Troy A. Eid said the three men, who were arrested in suburban Denver on Sunday, had been more "aspirational than operational" in their threats and therefore did not warrant being charged for those actions.

"There is insufficient evidence at this time to indicate a true threat, plot or conspiracy against Senator Obama. The reported threats, hateful and bigoted though they were, involved a group of meth heads, methamphetamine abusers, all of whom were impaired at the time," Eid said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

The announcement of the charges comes as security surrounding the Democratic National Convention tightens by the day, with about 3,000 police officers, many heavily armed, in this city. The suspects carried out their alleged drug crimes and discussions of targeting Obama at hotels that are being used to house convention delegates.

Each suspect faces federal charges that could bring long prison terms, despite avoiding the conspiracy charge on threatening Obama, according to court documents released Tuesday. Shawn Robert Adolf, 33, faces as much as 33 years in prison on charges of illegally possessing a firearm, body armor and methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it. Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28, faces as much as two years on gun and drug charges. And Nathan Dwaine Johnson faces as much as 11 years for illegal possession of firearms and methamphetamine.

Local police arrested Gartrell at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday when he was seen driving erratically. They discovered two rifles, 85 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and items that could make a methamphetamine lab, according to a federal affidavit. He told police the guns belonged to Johnson and Adolf, with whom he had been partying at a Hyatt hotel.

Police arrested Johnson at that hotel, then arrested Adolf at the Cherry Creek Hotel in Glendale, where he and an unnamed woman were staying. Several members of media delegations, including The Washington Post and Newsweek, are staying at the hotel.

The woman told authorities that while they were taking meth at the Hyatt, the three men "could not believe how close [Obama] was to becoming president." They used a racial epithet to describe how no black man should be president, and Adolf mistakenly believed Obama was staying at the Hyatt.

Under questioning by Secret Service agents, Johnson said Adolf discussed a plan to kill Obama with a sniper rifle on Inauguration Day, if he were to win the presidency. Johnson, who grew tearful during the questioning, also answered "yes" when asked if Gartrell and Adolf were in Denver to kill Obama, according to the affidavit.

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