TWIN FALLS — Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices and made against city officials over the handling of a sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl.
Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar and Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins have both forwarded threatening messages they received about the incident to police.
Three boys from Middle Eastern families, ages 7, 10 and 14, were involved in the sexual assault against the girl at the Fawnbrook Apartments on June 2, authorities have said.
Two of the boys are Sudanese, one Iraqi. The two older boys are facing juvenile charges.
The story started to get national attention about a week ago after the two older boys were taken into custody. Several anti-Muslim and anti-refugee resettlement bloggers wrote about the case, with some incorrectly saying the boys were Syrian or containing details authorities have denied, including saying the assault was a gang-rape and that the boys held the girl at knife-point. Many of them accused law enforcement, city officials and local media of trying to cover up the incident.
“I’ve had my fair share of emails from folks this week sharing their concerns, and a fair amount of just outright lies and wrong information about this very tragic case that’s being handled,” Barigar said Friday.
Barigar said several of the emails and phone messages, “are what I would characterize as threatening personally to me and family.”
Barigar said he reported those few to police. He said he doesn’t know who’s behind the threats.
The mayor said he understands this is an emotional issue, and that “we need to remember there is a crime at the center of this that involves a victim that deserves our support.
“I think that anonymous ranting on legitimate news media sites and, even worse, on blogs and one-sided hate-mongering internet locations is not productive for this case, and worse, I think it is not who we are as a community,” Barigar continued. “I think the hatred that is spewing from people all across the country and around the world who are commenting on this is not a reflection of the community we all know and love. And I think that those who are not engaged in this conversation, who have differing, more positive views about this community have some level of responsibility to step up and quiet these people who have literally hijacked our community identity to spread their agenda of hate and fear.”
Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury said Friday that city offices and some city officials have gotten emails, some of which are “downright rude and mean” and others that are threatening. He said his department and the FBI are investigating and “doing what we can just to make sure everybody’s safe.”
Nobody has been arrested, Kingsbury said.
Hawkins said she received many messages containing “a lot of hate,” including “name calling” and “not wishing me well,” although most haven’t contained threats. She said she reported to police one threatening voice mail left at her business.
U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson wasn’t available for comment Friday afternoon, but she told the Idaho Statesman earlier in the day that her office is ready to take action against anyone who threatens or harasses people or obstructs police or prosecutors, and that she has spoken both to local officials and Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C.
“We’re paying attention to activities in Twin Falls and stand ready to pursue it if we are needed,” she said.
One email that was also sent to city and county employees and the Times-News lists work phone numbers and emails for several City Council members, the College of Southern Idaho’s top brass, the leaders of the city police and county sheriff’s office and a Times-News reporter, characterizing them as “Islamification/Jihad Supporter(s),” and threatens to add home addresses and information about relatives and in-laws soon. It accuses city officials of bowing to “the Islamification of North America” because of the influence of Chobani, which is owned by the Turkish-born Hamdi Ulukaya and which employs many refugees at its Twin Falls yogurt plant, and accuses the police of having “direct links” to the company.
The list appears to have originated as a comment on the blog “Winds of Jihad,” and was forwarded to the people mentioned in it by Jeff Maehr, a Coloradan who believes in creating “liberty zones” where like-minded people can live to defend their rights and fight government actions they deem unconstitutional.
“This email is going viral, and I hope Twin Falls becomes a ghost town and no tourist ever imagines going there,” Maher writes. “Your treason against America is now documented and will be evidence against you later on,” going on to argue that religions other than Christianity aren’t protected by the First Amendment.
The email lists contact information for several City Council members, including Hawkins, Barigar and Greg Lanting, who is characterized as “a devout Marxist.” And, it includes a work phone number for Barigar’s wife, Camille Barigar.
As for CSI, “This college and its faculty and staff are hardened Marxists. All of the usual suspects can be found here from the SJW’s, to the OWS, La Raza, New Black Panther and BLM movements. This college fully supports the dismantling of America’s immigrations system, the releasing of all terrorist/activists from US prisons and the eradication of all of the American borders. This college is particularly sympathetic to all Muslim political activity and views Islamic terrorism, domestically and internationally, as the justified reward of all non-Muslims.”
Loebs, who is a Republican, is referred to as a “Marxist lawyer” who is “a full supporter of Islamic cultural jihad and dismisses the rape of the 5-year-old girl as ‘cultural diversity.’” The email also accuses him of refusing to prosecute in the case although the older boys have been charged in juvenile court.
Kingsbury said police will evaluate on Monday morning and decide whether extra security is necessary at Monday evening’s City Council meeting. Kingsbury usually attends Council meetings, and other officers attend when there is an agenda item such as new police officers being sworn in or, as is the case Monday, a police officer is being honored or given a certification. Kingsbury said he expects a few officers to be at the meeting.
Hawkins said it would be Barigar’s call whether to have additional security, but she doesn’t expect anything to happen.
“I don’t believe it’s our local citizens doing it,” she said of the threats.