BOSTON (WHDH/AP) — A California man was arrested Thursday morning for allegedly threatening to kill employees at The Boston Globe in retaliation for the newspaper’s editorial response to President Donald Trump’s political attacks on the media, officials said.
Robert D. Chain, 68, of Encino, is charged with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, United States Attorney Andrew Lelling announced in a press release.
Chain is accused of making threatening phone calls to the Globe’s newsroom immediately after the daily publication announced on Aug. 10 that it was requesting that other newspapers around the country publish a coordinated editorial response to political attacks on the media.
In a total of about 14 calls over the course of 12 days, Chain threatened to kill Globe employees and referred to the paper as “the enemy of the people,” a characterization of journalists that Trump has used in the past, court documents said.
On Aug. 16, the day the coordinated editorial response was published, Chain allegedly called the Globe newsroom and threatened to shoot several employees in the head.
“You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every [expletive] one of you,” Chain said, according to the documents. “I’m going to shoot you in the [expletive] head later today, at 4 o’clock. Goodbye.”
Records also show Chain owns several guns, including a 9mm carbine rifle he bought in May, authorities said.
A neighbor who lived across the street from Chain and only knew him as “Rob” said he had a bombastic personality and could frequently be heard yelling at his television.
Tim McGowan said he knew nothing of Chain’s political leanings but assumed he was an old hippie because he wore his hair in a man bun and frequently walked around in just shorts with his big belly protruding.
McGowan said he couldn’t imagine Chain following through with violence, “but I could see him making the threats because he’s such a loud mouth.”
McGowan said he was startled awake by three loud bangs at 6 a.m. Thursday. His wife called police, who told her they were the source of the commotion.
When he looked outside, he saw about 30 heavily armed officers in and a tank-like vehicle. Chain eventually emerged from the house in handcuffs wearing only boxer shorts.
“When I saw Rob in handcuffs standing there in his underwear, I was, like, ‘What the heck is going on here?'” McGowan said. He subsequently learned what happened from reporters who showed up at his door, adding that he had learned more about his neighbor in a few hours than he had in nine years.
Lelling made it clear that regardless of political affiliation, federal authorities are set one prosecuting anyone who makes others fear for their lives.
“In the past few months, this office has charged people with threatening to bomb a minority commencement ceremony at Harvard, threatening to shoot people at a Second Amendment rally, offering money to anyone who kills a federal agent, and mailing white powder and threatening notes to certain public figures,” Lelling said. “Anyone – regardless of political affiliation – who puts others in fear for their lives will be prosecuted by this office. In a time of increasing political polarization, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will.”
The Boston Globe issued a statement on Chain’s arrest, saying they are grateful to law enforcement for the work they did following the threats.
“We are grateful to the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, the Boston Police, and local authorities in California for the work they did in protecting the Globe while threats were coming in, for investigating the source, and for making this arrest. We couldn’t have asked for a stronger response,” Globe spokeswoman Jane Bowman said. “While it was unsettling for many of our staffers to be threatened in such a way, nobody – really, nobody – let it get in the way of the important work of this institution.”
Chain is slated to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon and be transferred to Boston at a later date.
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