The Justice Department has charged the man who was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland early Wednesday with attempting or threatening to kidnap or murder a US judge.
The man, Nicholas John Roske, had called emergency authorities saying he was having suicidal thoughts and had a firearm in his suitcase, leading to his arrest, according to the criminal complaint.
He told law enforcement he had traveled from California to kill “a specific United States Supreme Court Justice,” according to an FBI affidavit filed Wednesday. The affidavit said Roske was upset about the leak of the Supreme Court opinion related to abortion rights, an upcoming gun control case and the school shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas.
“Roske indicated that he believed the Justice that he intended to kill would side with Second Amendment decisions that would loosen gun control laws,” the FBI agent wrote. “Roske stated that he began thinking about how to give his life a purpose and decided that he would kill the Supreme Court Justice” after breaking into his home. Roske planned to kill himself as well, the affidavit added.
On Wednesday morning, Roske was carrying a suitcase and backpack filled with a tactical knife, a Glock 17 pistol, two magazines, ammunition, pepper spray and zip ties, the FBI said.
Roske also had on hand a hammer, screwdriver, nail punch, crowbar, pistol light and duct tape, the affidavit said.
There has been a rise in threats against the court amid the national abortion rights debate and protests that have taken place across the US. The Department of Homeland Security issued a memo last month warning law enforcement that there are potential threats to members of the Supreme Court after a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked.
The memo also said Supreme Court police have noticed a major uptick in social media threats of violence, with some currently under investigation. Some of those threats have been directed at the justices and the court building, which is now surrounded by fencing.
The arrest happened hours before the justices were scheduled to issue more rulings in the final weeks of the annual session.
The court did not respond to a question if Kavanaugh was at the building Wednesday morning. The building has been closed to the public since March 2020, and justices no longer announce their opinions from the courtroom bench due to covid protocols.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that “threats of violence and actual violence against” Supreme Court justices “strike at the heart of our democracy and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people who do them accountable.”
“This kind of behavior is obviously behavior that we will not tolerate,” Garland told reporters. “Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices of course strike at the heart of our democracy and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people who do them accountable.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement that there has been “heightened security” at the homes of justices since last month.
“I call on leaders in both parties in Washington to strongly condemn these actions in no uncertain terms. It is vital to our constitutional system that the justices be able to carry out their duties without fear of violence against them and their families,” said Hogan, a Republican.
“We will continue to partner with both federal and local law enforcement officials to help ensure these residential areas are secure,” Hogan said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.