Utah man killed after threats against Biden believed government was corrupt
An armed Utah man killed by FBI agents after making violent threats against US President Joe Biden has been described by family and neighbours as a gun enthusiast and devoted churchgoer who became distraught over what he saw as “a corrupt and overreaching government”.
The family insisted that Air Force veteran Craig Deleeuw Robertson would not have acted on the threats and committed violence over political disagreements, despite court records in which prosecutors depicted him as radicalised.
Mr Robertson, who public records say was 74 years old, was killed on Wednesday by agents trying to serve a warrant at his Provo home hours before the president landed in Utah to visit a Veterans Affairs hospital in Salt Lake City, about 45 miles away.
Prosecutors had filed three felony charges against Mr Robertson under seal for alleged threats, including one this week that he was “cleaning the dust off the M24 sniper rifle” in anticipation of Mr Biden’s Utah visit.
The self-employed woodworker was largely homebound and had limited mobility, his family said.
Mr Robertson referred to himself as a “Maga Trumper”, a reference to former president Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, and posted threats including against Mr Biden, the FBI and numerous law enforcement officials overseeing court cases against Trump, according to an FBI affidavit.
“There was very little he could do but exercise his First Amendment right to free speech,” Mr Robertson’s family said in a statement posted to social media.
The statement added that he was a decent man who voiced his “sometimes intemperate” grievances “in what has become the public square of our age – the internet”.
The family added that it had no animosity against law enforcement agents who took part in the events leading up to his death.
“The salient point is that he was never actually going to hurt anyone,” family member Julie Robertson said in a text message. “He didn’t even leave his house on the day of the presidential visit.”
The FBI investigation began following a March tip about a threat Robertson made on Mr Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social.
Mr Robertson also referenced a “presidential assassination” and posted threats against Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, US attorney general Merrick Garland and New York attorney general Letitia James, authorities said.
He called for assassinating the president and vice president, called an assault rifle a “Democrat eradicator” and regularly posted photos of firearms accompanied by threatening messages, they said.
In Provo, a growing area south of Salt Lake City known for outdoor recreation and Brigham Young University, several of Robertson’s neighbours said they witnessed and filmed parts of the FBI raid.
They echoed the family’s account, questioning whether the elderly veteran they knew was a credible threat to the president in light of his social media posts.
Multiple neighbours said they could hear law enforcement agents identifying themselves as FBI broadcasting on a vehicle loudspeaker to demand Mr Robertson exit his home.
Roughly 20 law enforcement agents came to Mr Robertson’s house, on a cul-de-sac, at about 6am local time on Wednesday, according to neighbour Jon Michael Ossola.
Mr Ossola said he heard them tell Mr Robertson to come outside and Mr Robertson yelling back, saying he had not committed any federal crimes.
The shouting escalated until a window was broken, Mr Ossola said, then he heard a cacophony of bangs and eventually saw agents bring Mr Robertson’s body outside. “It was clear he was gone,” Mr Ossola said.
“I understand that, like, he had guns, and he had mentioned that he would use them, and so there’s definitely a concern there,” Mr Ossola said. “But it still felt, like, a bit unsettling about how many people were there and just kind of how forceful it felt.”
Mr Robertson was armed at the time of the shooting, according to two law enforcement sources.
His body remained on the scene for several hours until forensic investigators while police began to remove what Mr Robertson’s next door neighbour Katie Monson described as “an arsenal” of firearms from his home and the sheds behind it.
Ms Monson said Mr Robertson was a kind and played with kids in neighbours’ yards. She likened the contrast between his in-person demeanour and online persona to “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”.
She said: “After living next to this guy for six years, he’s just like this super sweet grandpa for the most part.
“Yes, he has rants and opinions. I can’t speak to his online life, but he had a peaceful, religious, community-centred side to him. That was how he presented himself in everyday life.”