A Wichita man has been arrested on suspicion of threatening to kidnap and kill the city’s mayor for a law requiring that residents wear masks in public.
The arrest occurred after another city official read a series of text messages he had received about Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple from the suspect, according to the mayor. The man detailed the threat and was seeking information about Whipple’s home address, The Wichita Eagle reported Friday.
The motive was apparently the suspect’s opposition to “masks and tyranny,” the Democratic mayor told the newspaper.
Fourteen members of a Michigan militia were arrested earlier this month for an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has been a particular target of criticism from President Donald Trump. Some of those suspects also labeled Whitmer a “tyrant” for mask orders and for shutting down businesses to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Whitmer has blamed Trump for inciting such violence by encouraging hate groups and with his demeaning attacks against her. In April Trump tweeted: “Liberate Michigan.”
In the Wichita case, the suspect said that “he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat, and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman … something about tyranny,” Whipple told the Eagle.
The Wichita City Council passed an ordinance in July requiring people to wear a mask or face covering when in public. Offenders can be ticketed.
The man sounded “very upset about pretty much mask mandates” and was angry about “not being able to see his mother because of COVID restrictions on elderly homes,” Whipple told the newspaper.
The suspect, Meredith Dowty, 59, was booked into the local county jail Friday evening on suspicion of a criminal threat, police said.
Whipple told WIBW Eyewitness News that he has received threats before but this one “seemed more thought out, more planned.”
Whipple tweeted after the arrest that “violence is never a way to settle disagreements.”
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