Anchorage man charged in death threat to Assembly member
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According to court documents, multiple Anchorage Assembly members received threats regarding gun violence last week.
The Facebook messages started on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 12, and continued into Wednesday, with the online sender appearing to become increasingly unhinged, according to John Weddleton.
The South Anchorage Assembly member who says he has previously overlooked harassment decided it was time to consult police.
“[The messages] were direct threats to kill me and other assembly members and I thought, ‘Okay, well this is gone over the edge,’ and they became more and more deranged,” Weddleton said during an interview Tuesday.
Police identified Richard Leemon Joe as the source of the threatening messages, according to court documents. A criminal complaint notes Joe is known to use other identities online.
“The member posting the [threats] to the Assembly member was identified as Richard Joe by his social media picture and infamous moniker as Scanner Joe,” the complaint states. “Joe is currently using the social media user name Joe Nuyalran.”
According to the document, one of the messages to Weddleton said, “Johnny Weddy were coming after the ASSEMBLY I have my AR-15 and 3 mags. If it doesn’t hit you it’ll hit people... JUST LIKE THE CAPITOL BUILDING.”
Joe faces a misdemeanor count of illegal use of phone-abusive/offensive. The case was filed on Friday, Jan. 15.
Weddleton said he believes Joe is “loosely tethered to reality,” and found the messages concerning.
“A very thoughtful, logical person doesn’t threaten to shoot people and doesn’t do it, but we do know people get shot by crazy people and I don’t want to be one of those,” he said.
After the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists on Jan. 6, the Anchorage Police Department increased its presence at the Anchorage Assembly meeting on Jan. 12. Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll said the increased police presence was a precautionary measure and in place to make sure people felt safe.
“I’m shocked by it too, but I would not say it’s wrong,” said Weddleton, of the increased law enforcement presence.
He said while many people found the violence at the Capitol appalling, he has heard from people who feel emboldened by it, including a young constituent.
“I got an email from a high schooler last week that was well written, thoughtful and she said that we have backed her in a corner and her only way to seek redress is through violence, and she cited the Declaration of Independence a number of times,” he said. “I replied and I said, ‘You know the patriots were fighting a monarch which did not give them a way to redress their problems and they fought to build a country where we have lots of ways to do that.’”
Weddleton said he worries for the safety of his fellow assembly members, but hopes that instead of turning to violence, people will choose to do their part to push for change through voting, community activism and service on community councils and commissions.
When reached by Facebook messages Monday, Joe acknowledged to Alaska’s News Source that he had been charged, but did not respond to further questions or requests for comment.
Joe is known to some through his past involvement with the Alaska Scanner Joe Facebook group as an early administrator. The group was once a space for Anchorage residents to share information heard over police scanner traffic. After APD encrypted its scanner feeds, cutting off access to members of the public and journalists, the members of the group continued to share information about crime and other happenings around town.
Wednesday, current administrators of the group said Joe has not been affiliated with the group for more than three years.
A post to the group dated Dec. 30, 2020, warned members, “He is not an Admin and is no longer associated with this group. If he tells you otherwise, he is not truthful.”
The post went on to say Joe was removed by current admins and will not be allowed to return.
According to the charging documents, Weddleton was not the only Assembly member who received threats regarding gun violence last week.
During a telephonic arraignment for Joe Wednesday, Joe said he does not own any firearms.
Once released on an unsecured bond, Joe will be assigned to supervision and court-ordered GPS monitoring through the Pretrial Enforcement Division. He is also prohibited from possessing firearms and ordered to stay away from the Z.J. Loussac Library and Anchorage Assembly members.
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