Facebook threat targeted GJ police, preschool
A man faces possible federal charges after posting to his Facebook page alleged death threats against Grand Junction Police Department officers, their children and urging a massacre at a preschool, according to court records.
Kenneth R. Wheeler, 31, 445 Chipeta Ave., No. 28, was ordered held without bond Wednesday at the Mesa County Jail after his initial court appearance at the Wayne N. Aspinall federal building. Wheeler was advised by U.S. Magistrate Gudrun Rice of a possible maximum five years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000, or both, if convicted of a single count of making interstate or foreign threatening communications.
Stephen Laiche, a court-appointed attorney representing Wheeler, said Wednesday the allegations are untrue, and he declined further comment.
Wheeler was arrested Tuesday by federal agents, four days after Grand Junction police approached the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement about threats on Wheeler’s Facebook page, according to an arrest warrant. A tipster phoned police after viewing the postings, the warrant said.
The rambling, often nonsensical post on March 12 starts with, “STARDRAGON celestial override contingency ...,” the warrant said. Named, however, are Grand Junction police officers Adam Winch, Tim Janda and Mark Brown, while the post urges readers to take aim at “rapists, pedophiles and cops.”
” … kill them all. Hang em upside down set their face on fire and saw them in half,” the post reads.
Earlier in the post, Wheeler allegedly wrote, “… the americans cant punish me for what i say here in rome, italy, on facebook,” the warrant said.
The warrant said Wheeler left the United States on March 9, flying from Denver to Toronto, Canada. He was scheduled to return Tuesday.
Facebook security personnel provided to federal authorities information about Wheeler’s latest account sessions, showing IP computer addresses in Rome, Italy, according to the warrant.
Federal agents arrested Wheeler after meeting his plane Tuesday at Grand Junction Regional Airport.
Police spokeswoman Kate Porras said the Police Department notified the officers named in Wheeler’s post and took unspecified steps toward protecting their safety. The department, Porras said, also notified Stepping Stones Children’s Center, 715 N. Seventh St., which allegedly was threatened by Wheeler.
Wheeler urged readers to target the building, “if my dui charges are not dropped,” the warrant said.
“... just walk in and kill everybody. phug it. they want to play games lets play the game of life, where winners live and losers die,” the post reads.
Court records show Wheeler pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in connection with a May 5, 2011, drunken-driving arrest following a traffic stop by Grand Junction police. Unresolved in the case is a motion to suppress evidence as Wheeler claimed he was questioned illegally by officers after the stop.
According to records, officers Winch and Janda were endorsed as witnesses in a 2009 arrest of Wheeler in which Wheeler was charged with misdemeanor possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was convicted on both counts and sentenced October 2009 to complete 24 hours of community service, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.
Jailed in Mesa County in November 2009, Wheeler asked officials to be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo for an evaluation, sending a hand-written letter to County Court Judge Bruce Raaum.
“This court cannot order a mental health evaluation,” Raaum replied.
CBI records show Wheeler was arrested seven times in Colorado dating back to 1999, including convictions in April 2005 on charges of felony use of a stun gun, assault and false imprisonment. Wheeler was sentenced to two years in state prison.