Man Arrested After Threatening Wichita Mayor Over Face Masks, Police Say

Mayor Brandon Whipple of Wichita, Kan., said he often gets “goofy” threats, like the time someone said they wanted to attack him with a Goodyear blimp.

But those threats took a serious turn on Friday after someone reported to the police that they had received text messages threatening to kidnap and kill Mr. Whipple, a Democrat. Although the messages weren’t sent directly to Mr. Whipple, he said a detective read them to him.

The messages contained a “very descriptive plan of execution,” including locating the mayor, slitting his throat, hanging him and then turning him into fertilizer, Mr. Whipple said on Saturday.

Mr. Whipple said the man sent the messages to a third party, who later reported the messages to the police. The messages described the mayor using a code name, asked for his address and also mentioned opposition to masks and coronavirus mitigation policies.

The mayor pushed in July to pass a mask mandate in Wichita.

“This isn’t someone who is just kind of angry,” Mr. Whipple said. “This sounded like it was thought out in the text messages that were read to me.”

On Friday, the Wichita Police Department said in a news release that Meredith Dowty, 59, was arrested on a charge of criminal threat in connection with threatening statements directed at Mr. Whipple.

The findings from the investigation will be presented to the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, the police said.

Attempts on Sunday to reach Mr. Dowty by phone and email were unsuccessful. It was not known if Mr. Dowty has a lawyer.

The district attorney, Marc Bennett, said the police would present their case to prosecutors “at the conclusion of their investigation,” which he expected to be this week.

The Wichita Eagle reported that Mr. Dowty is a retired Wichita city firefighter who was once honored by the City Council for helping save the life of a police officer who had been shot.

Officer Charley Davidson of the Wichita Police Department said on Sunday that he wasn’t aware of other threats directed at elected officials.

It’s the latest in a series of threats made this month against government officials.

On Oct. 8, the F.B.I. said an anti-government group in Michigan had plotted in detail to kidnap the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. The F.B.I. also said on Thursday that Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, also a Democrat, was discussed as a target by the same group.

Ms. Whitmer became a focal point of anti-government anger over her efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

In Wichita, Mr. Whipple supported a citywide mask rule in July after Sedgwick County commissioners, empowered by a legislative change, rolled back a mandate imposed by the state. County officials eventually instituted their own mask rule anyway.

At a City Council meeting, more than 100 people spoke out against the rule. The mayor said people blamed him for it.

“I was the one who spearheaded it, and I was going to take the blame for it,” he said.

Although Mr. Whipple said he was angry and annoyed about the threats, he said he just wanted to get back to doing his work as mayor.

“Until I’m voted out or until they’re successful in assassinating me, I’m hoping to do what’s right for the people of Wichita,” he said.


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