CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia man has been charged with threatening Gov. Jim Justice and his staff over restrictions meant to keep people from getting infected and dying during the coronavirus pandemic.
Steven Long, 49, was arrested Thursday night and charged with terroristic threatening, news outlets reported, citing a statement from West Virginia State Police.
Troopers received a complaint Wednesday about a tweet that was deemed a possible threat, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.
The tweet complains about policies implemented by Justice, West Virginia State Medical Director Anye Amjad and West Virginia COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh, and in retaliation, "calls for ‘LynchMob Justice’ and the public execution of all three government officials,” Cpl. Benjamin Wood wrote in the criminal complaint.
With coronavirus infections spiking in West Virginia and elsewhere around the U.S., Justice announced new requirements last week, making people wear masks in businesses and other public indoor spaces at all times except when eating or drinking. The governor also urged businesses to call police on patrons not wearing masks. Justice also ordered public and private schools to refrain from in-person instruction from Thanksgiving through Dec. 3, and postponed winter youth sports until Jan. 11, 2021.
Long told troopers he was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech with the tweet, the criminal complaint said.
“Mr. Long stated he was expressing a thought, not a threat, not a harm, just a thought,” Wood wrote.
Police said it was an attempt to intimidate officials and influence future COVID-19 policies.
It wasn't immediately clear if Long has an attorney.