By MARK SHERMAN, MICHAEL BALSAMO and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested Wednesday near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice.
Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was charged with the attempted murder of a Supreme Court justice. During a court hearing, he consented to remain in federal custody for now.
Roske was dressed in black when he arrived by taxi just after 1 a.m. outside Kavanaugh’s home in a Washington suburb. He had a Glock 17 pistol, ammunition, a knife, zip ties, pepper spray, duct tape and other items that he told police he would use to break into Kavanaugh’s house and kill him, according to a criminal complaint and an affidavit filed in federal court in Maryland. Roske said he purchased the gun to kill Kavanaugh and that he also would kill himself, the affidavit said.
Roske told police he was upset by a leaked draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court is about to overrule Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case. He also said he was upset over the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, and believed Kavanaugh would vote to loosen gun control laws, the affidavit said.
When he got out of the taxi, Roske was spotted by two U.S. Marshals who are part of round-the-clock security provided to the justices following the leak of the draft opinion last month. But Roske was only apprehended after he called 911 in Montgomery County, Maryland, and said he was having suicidal thoughts and planned to kill Kavanaugh, having found the justice’s address online. Roske was still on the phone when Montgomery County police arrived on the scene, according to the affidavit.
At his initial appearance in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, Roske paused several times before responding to routine inquiries from U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan during the 10-minute hearing.
Asked if he understood what was happening and whether he was thinking clearly, Roske paused, then said, “I think I have a reasonable understanding, but I wouldn’t say I’m thinking clearly.”
Roske said he is taking medication, but did not say what it is or why he is on it. He also said he is a college graduate.
Andrew Szekely, a federal public defender who is representing Roske, declined to comment on the case after the hearing. Roske’s next court date was tentatively set for June 22. The attempted murder charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.
Earlier Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters, “This kind of behavior is obviously behavior we will not tolerate. Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices of course strike at the heart of our democracy and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people who do them accountable.”
President Joe Biden praised authorities for quickly apprehending the man, deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said in an email.
There have been protests at the homes of Kavanaugh and other justices, as well as demonstrations at the court, where a security fence rings the building and nearby streets have been closed.
A Homeland Security Department report said the draft opinion, leaked in early May, has unleashed a wave of threats against officials and others and increased the likelihood of extremist violence.
Kunzelman reported from Greenbelt, Maryland.