A Utah resident, who was armed and allegedly making violent threats against President Joe Biden, was fatally shot by FBI agents just hours before the US president's arrival in the state on Wednesday (9 August).
Special agents were attempting to serve a search warrant at the residence of Craig Deleeuw Robertson in Provo, located south of Salt Lake City, when the incident occurred at 6:15 am, according to an FBI statement.
At the time of the incident, Robertson was armed, the Associated Press reported citing sources.
On Monday, Robertson had posted online about his awareness of Biden's impending visit to Utah, and his intentions to dig out a camouflage suit and begin “cleaning the dust off the M24 sniper rifle,".
This post followed several months of explicit online threats made by Robertson against various public figures, according to court documents.
Robertson, who identified himself as a "MAGA Trumper" – a reference to former President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan – had also issued threats against high-ranking law enforcement officials involved in court cases against Trump.
Robertson, according to his neighbours, was a frail elderly individual who relied on a hand-carved stick for walking. He was 74 years old, as per his online profile.
Despite frequently carrying firearms, he was not perceived as a threat, as per the neighbours.
Andrew Maunder, a neighbor of Robertson, adamantly dismissed the notion that Robertson could have driven from their location to Salt Lake City, positioned a rifle, and attempted to assassinate the president.
“There’s no way that he was driving from here to Salt Lake City, setting up a rifle and taking a shot at the president - 100% no way,” Maunder was quoted as saying by AP.
The incident occurred amid a backdrop of increased criticism of law enforcement and the FBI by the Republicans, a party that has traditionally presented itself as the champion of law and order.
Despite his appointee Christopher Wray leading the the FBI, Trump has consistently criticised the agency.
Wray has also warned of the dangers of Trump's recent rhetoric.
There is reportedly growing concern among officials as the ex-US president intensifies his criticism of the FBI, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and the local and federal prosecutors who have recently lodged three separate criminal cases against him.
Ahead of his visit to a Veterans Affairs hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was set to discuss the PACT Act and its extension of veterans benefits, President Biden flew to Utah. He also planned to hold a reelection fundraiser.
According to court records, Robertson's social media posts suggested that he possessed a variety of weapons, including a long-range sniper rifle, and camouflage gear known as a "ghillie suit".
On Tuesday, Robertson was charged with three felony counts, including making threats against the president and FBI agents investigating him, as revealed in court documents.
Authorities reported that Robertson made references to a "presidential assassination" and posted threats against several high-ranking officials, including Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, US Attorney General Merrick Garland, and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Robertson allegedly wrote in a Facebook post from September 2022, "The time is right for a presidential assassination or two. First Joe then Kamala!!!" as cited in the court filings.
The initiation of the FBI probe was triggered by a tip-off about the Bragg threat from Trump's own social media platform, Truth Social, in March.
This was after Robertson posted about “waiting in the courthouse parking garage” with a suppressed weapon and wanting to “put a nice hole in his forehead".
His profile was subsequently deactivated from the platform.
There was no immediate release of additional information regarding the shooting incident, which is currently being examined by the FBI.
Early Wednesday, residents reported the arrival of authorities at Robertson's property, accompanied by a loud noise and potential gunfire.
Travis Lee Clark, who has been acquainted with Robertson for numerous years through their mutual involvement in their church ward, portrayed Robertson as a man with delicate health, a skilled craftsman in woodworking, and a respected figure within their community.
Clark noted Robertson's reliance on a hand-carved wooden walking stick for support and expressed surprise at the notion of him being perceived as a significant threat.
Clark described Robertson as a boomer who was deeply invested in politics and occasionally made inappropriate jokes. However, he insisted that there was never an indication of him being a threat.
He also mentioned that he only became aware of Robertson's Facebook posts posthumously.
Clark revealed that Robertson possessed an assortment of about 20 firearms, a fact he stated was not uncommon for the locale.
Before shifting his residence from Provo to Orem, businessman Paul Searing had been keeping tabs on Robertson's online activities for several years.
He even cautioned Robertson when he felt that the latter was overstepping boundaries in his posts
“He believed in his right to bear arms. He believed in his right to say what he feels. When it came down to it, he knew the Lord wouldn’t have approved of killing innocent people,” Searing was quoted as saying by AP.
“Things got out of hand because he just was really frustrated," Searing added.
As per court documents, Robertson received a visit from two FBI agents following an initial alert about him from Truth Social in March.
They found Robertson in a Trump cap, sporting what one agent referred to in a search warrant affidavit as an "AR-15 style rifle lapel pin".
The affidavit states that Robertson dismissed his initial threat as merely "a dream" and insisted that they should only come back with a warrant.
In a subsequent Facebook post referred to in the affidavit, he said, “To my friends in the Federal Bureau of Idiots: I know you’re reading this and you have no idea how close your agents came to ‘violent eradication',".
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