By Katelyn Polantz, Joan Biskupic and Chandelis Duster, CNN
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, 26, of Simi Valley, California, 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.
Roske appeared in a Greenbelt, Maryland, federal court Wednesday and agreed to remain in jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 22.
Wearing a dark gray long-sleeve shirt and black pants, Roske was asked by District Judge Tim Sullivan if he understood the nature of the charges that were brought against him, Roske said he wasn’t “thinking clearly” but understood what was going on. Asked if he was under the influence, he told the judge that he was on medication that he had taken that day. He did not specify what medication.
White House ‘condemns’ in ‘strongest terms’
The White House says President Joe Biden condemns the actions of the armed individual arrested outside Kavanaugh’s home. White House spokesman Andrew Bates told CNN “President Biden condemns the actions of this individual in the strongest terms, and is grateful to law enforcement for quickly taking him into custody.”
“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. And any violence, threats of violence, or attempts to intimidate justices have no place in our society. He has said that himself, and his spokespeople have been forceful about this from the podium.”
Bates noted that Biden “supports legislation to fund increased security for the court and judges.”
Increase in threats
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.
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CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.