Fresh off a flight from California, Nicholas Roske grabbed a cab to the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, according to court records. It was 1 a.m.
“The boots with padding really raised red flags,” said Capt. Sean Gagen, commander of the Montgomery County Police Department’s Bethesda district.
As detailed as Roske’s plans may have been, court records and newly released 911 calls also document how quickly he abandoned them. Once arriving to the Maryland home early Wednesday, Roske spotted two deputy U.S. marshals, part of Kavanaugh’s security detail, standing outside a car, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court. He walked away, turned a corner and called 911 to turn himself in.
“I’m standing now, but I can sit, whatever. I want to be fully compliant,” Roske said, according to a copy of the 911 call released Thursday by the Montgomery County Police Department. “So whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”
County officers soon pulled up and arrested Roske without incident.
Federal officials have charged Roske with attempted murder of a federal judge. According to the FBI affidavit, Roske was upset by the leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion, supported by Kavanaugh, signaling that the court is positioned to overturn Roe v. Wade. He was also worried that in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Tex., the justice “would side with 2nd Amendment decisions that would loosen gun control laws,” according to the affidavit.
On the 911 recordings, Roske calmly answered questions, telling the operator how he had just flown in from California and had planned to hurt Kavanaugh and then himself. He said that his gun was locked in a case in his suitcase and that he needed psychiatric help. Eventually, sirens could be heard.
“They’re here. I’m going to hang up,” he said.
At a court appearance Wednesday afternoon, neither Roske nor his attorney addressed the specific allegations. When U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan asked him if he understood the proceedings, Roske said: “I think I have a reasonable enough understanding, but I wouldn’t say I’m thinking clearly.”
As Sullivan inquired further, Roske said only that he was on medication and that he had taken that medication on Wednesday. He later clarified that he had “a clear enough understanding” to proceed. He remains detained pending further court proceedings.
The attorney, federal public defender Andrew Szekely, as well as Roske’s family members in California, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
As a legal matter, the fact that Roske didn’t follow through on his alleged plans might not necessarily help him, analysts said.
All of the actions Roske took, at least according to the FBI affidavit, probably put him over the threshold of “substantial steps beyond mere preparation” that is generally required to be convicted of attempted murder in federal court, according to Robert Bonsib, a defense attorney in Maryland.
“His steps, as stated in the affidavit, were so substantial and well down the road towards completing the crime that an abandonment defense may be difficult,” Bonsib said.
The 911 recordings offered a possible window into Roske’s mind-set. Parts are redacted, such as his name and his descriptions of medical issues. He called 911 twice.
The first call lasted only a minute. The 911 operator asked where he was. By then, Roske had walked around a corner and was about two blocks from the justice’s home.
“Let me try to find a street sign,” he said, adding, “Give me one moment and I’ll call back, okay?”
And he did, this time providing a better location and his name. He spoke about bad thoughts he was having.
“I’ve been having them for a long time,” he said. “I’m from California. I came over here to act on them.”
He said he intended to hurt himself and someone else.
“Do you have access to any weapons?” the 911 operator asked.
“Yes. I brought a firearm with me, but it’s unloaded and locked in the case,” the caller said.
“Okay. Where’s the firearm now?” the operator responded.
“It’s in a suitcase. It’s a black suitcase,” Roske said, according to the recording. “I’m standing near it, but the suitcase is zip-tied shut. I just came from the airport.”
Roske said he hadn’t been drinking or using drugs. When asked if he needed medical attention, Roske said, “I need psychiatric help.”
Roske indicated his target was "Brett Kavanaugh … the Supreme Court justice.”
He said he had learned his address, in part, after seeing photographs online of protests outside Kavanaugh’s home. As police officers were on their way, the operator tried to keep Roske calm by, among other topics, asking him if he had any pets at home. Roske said he did — a cockapoo named Molly.
Katie Mettler and Razzan Nakhlawi contributed to this report.