A Wichita man has been arrested on suspicion of threatening to kidnap and kill the city’s mayor over a COVID-19 measure requiring residents to 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, according to the mayor. The man who texted him detailed the threat and was seeking information about Whipple’s home address, The Wichita Eagle reported Friday.
The motive was apparently opposition to “masks and tyranny,” the Democratic mayor told the newspaper.
Meredith Dowty, 59, was booked into the county jail Friday evening on suspicion of a criminal threat, police said.
In Michigan, 14 members of a militia calling itself the Wolverine Watchmen were arrested earlier this month in an alleged plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has been a particular target of criticism from President Donald Trump. Some of those arrested had also labeled Whitmer a “tyrant” for imposing public health orders and for shutting down businesses to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Whitmer has blamed Trump for inciting such anti-government violence by encouraging hate groups and with his demeaning attacks against her. In April, Trump tweeted: “Liberate Michigan.”
In the Wichita case, the texter said “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 as public health measures to prevent the spread of the cornavirus. The ordinance said offenders could 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.
Whipple told WIBW-TV that he has received threats before but that this one “seemed more thought out, more planned.”
Whipple tweeted after the arrest that “violence is never a way to settle disagreements.”