Man Threatens To Assassinate Sheriffs Who Don't Support New Gun Control Laws
Omak, WA – A Washington man who threatened to kill law enforcement officers who aren’t in favor of the state’s new gun control laws was arrested late Wednesday morning.
Jaydin Ledford, 23, was transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and faces charges of intimidating a public servant and harassment for threatening to kill, KHQ reported.
The investigation began on Feb. 4, after Ledford threatened to kill “sheriffs” who have spoken out against Initiative 1639 – a measure that was signed into law earlier this year, according to KOMO.
The law, which goes into full effect in July, raises the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, calls for enhanced background checks, and requires buyers to complete a firearm safety course, according to The Seattle Times.
Additionally, the initiative makes a gun owner responsible if another person uses their weapon to harm themselves or somebody else.
A multitude of law enforcement leaders have expressed their opposition to the new law, and some have challenged its constitutionality.
More than a dozen sheriffs have declared that they will not enforce it, KOMO reported.
"I-1639 is law. Sheriffs that are non-compliant will be shot. By me,” Ledford wrote in one of his posts.
“I really want to kill a police officer,” another post read.
Ledford specifically targeted Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich in one of the messages.
“Ozzie Knezovich is gonna get a bullet in his skull,” he wrote.
Ledford’s threats were taken very seriously, and investigators immediately alerted area law enforcement agencies to use caution if they encountered him, Okanagan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said.
“The case was investigated by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) along with Omak Police and Okanogan County Sheriff’s detectives,” Sheriff Hawley told The Omak Okanogan County Chronicle.
They executed a search warrant at Ledford’s home at approximately 11:50 a.m. on Feb. 20, and he was taken into custody without incident.
According to court documents, Ledford admitted that he had made the threats, and said that he meant what he wrote, the Associated Press reported.
Sheriff Hawley noted that the charges Ledford currently faces in Okanogan County will likely be dropped after the FBI files their own charges against him, according to KREM.
"I am very pleased the JTTF took these threats seriously and conducted an investigation resulting in today’s arrest,” Sheriff Knezovich said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“They did a great investigation, [and] now I hope that the prosecution is as vigorous as the investigation was,” he told KHQ in an interview.
According to the Associated Press, many of the law enforcement leaders who have spoken out against the new gun control law said they would not enforce it until the courts rule on its constitutionality. Both the Lewis County sheriff and the Republic police chief announced they had no intention of enforcing the law shortly after the initiative passed in November of 2018, The Seattle Times reported.
“I think it’s a bad law and I think it violates people’s rights,” Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer told The Seattle Times in January. “This law will do nothing to stop crime or do anything to make our communities safer. But what it will do is make criminals out of our honest citizens.”
The sheriff said his refusal to enforce I-1639 is not about his personal opinion, but rather the fact that the new law violates the state constitution.
He said he doesn’t agree with laws that legalize marijuana but he’s not refusing to enforce those laws because doing so doesn’t violate anybody’s rights.
Sheriff Songer also said the new background checks that probe mental-health issues are a violation of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), The Seattle Times reported.
“The whole thing is bizarre,” Sheriff Songer told NRATV. “Government is getting too nosy, getting too much into your home, how you store your firearm… there’s already laws on the books for negligence so if you did something that was negligent, you could be charged. They don’t need these new laws.”
“I have over 48 years in law enforcement and I can tell you that I-1639 and laws like it will not do a dang thing to make our communities safer. What it will do is make honest gun owners, who had possession of legal guns at one point before the law was passed, it will make them into criminals,” the sheriff continued.
“I don’t know why these politicians just don’t wake up. I’ve dealt with bad guys for 48 years and I can tell you, they can care less what laws you pass. They’re going to have guns, they’re going to have knives, they’re going to have baseball bats, whatever they can get to commit crimes,” he said.
Sheriff Songer also expressed his concern that the law will create a black market on the streets for firearms.
Steven Strachan, the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, said that although not all sheriffs and chiefs were taking a hard line like Chief Songer, many were concerned about the constitutionality of the new law.
The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court in November of 2018 that challenged the constitutionality of I-1639, The Seattle Times reported.
Strachan said police officials are also worried about the additional workload on their departments when the enhanced background checks go into effect.
“The law is the law and we’ll follow the background check to the extent that we need to,” he said. “They’re preparing the best they can to meet that additional workload.”
Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana told The Seattle Times that his county is already very busy doing background checks for citizens who want to get concealed-carry permits.
“Some days they’re lined up at the door to get concealed-weapons permits,” Sheriff Dana said. “That’s just another thing.”
He said he planned to comply with the new law but exercise “discretion” in enforcing it.
“We all have discretion,” Sheriff Dana said. “We all have active crime going on and we’ll look at this on a case-by-case basis and go from there.”