January 13, 2011
Colorado Springs police are investigating a death threat against Councilman Tom Gallagher by an online commenter who defended the shooter in the recent Arizona massacre.
“Especially with what happened in Arizona, we want to make sure – it’s probably not anything significant – but we probably should do a threat assessment just to make sure that government officials are safe,” police Lt. Mark Comte said Thursday.
The gazette.com commenter, who uses the online moniker Cost61, wrote Monday in a story about the shooting in Tucson that the gunman “did what we all want to do anyway.”
“Start killing off government,” the unidentified commenter wrote. “The reason we are all in the crap we are in now. He just didn’t have the means to do them all at once.”
In a story about Gallagher’s decision to run for Colorado Springs mayor, Cost61 wrote Tuesday that Gallagher “would be better off dead.”
At least one other commenter asked Cost61 to tone it down.
“Clean it up Cost 61!” a commenter named Actionjackson wrote. “Really, considering all that has transpired this week in AZ and to our country you have a poor choice of words. Hate speech is a weakness that diminishes your opinion.”
Less than four hours later, Cost61 defended the comment – and the shooting spree in Tucson.
“I am all for what happened in AZ,” Cost61 wrote in response to Actionjackson’s post. “An American finally had enough and did something about it.”
The initial comment about Gallagher triggered several complaints from readers and has been removed, and Cost61 has been banned from commenting on gazette.com.
The comments were reported in the Gazette City Desk blog and passed on to police Chief Richard Myers.
“It came across the chief’s desk and then it was passed to me to take a look at them because some of the statements he made, you know, ‘Start killing off government,’ ‘He would be better off dead,’” Comte said.
Comte is requesting Cost61’s online registration information from The Gazette.
“As a matter of policy, we don’t release the names of sources or anybody who might comment on our website, or our reporter’s notes,” said Jeff Thomas, the newspaper’s editor and vice president.
“We’re certainly not fans of anybody who would use our site to make threats against anybody,” but the press shouldn’t be used as an investigatory arm of the police, he said.
In an interview Wednesday, Gallagher said he wasn’t too concerned with the threat.
“I could get hit by a bus crossing the street. Odds are the same, so I’m not going to worry about it,” Gallagher said.