Four men were arrested by Detroit police for threatening to kill police officers, following the slaughter of five officers last Thursday in Dallas, according to Detroit police chief James Craig on Sunday.
Legal experts say it’s “murky” deciding where free speech ends and illegal behavior begins, but threatening to kill cops may be where the line is drawn in the sand.
As reported by Detroit News, one man posted, “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. Kill all white cops.”
Another said that the Dallas gunman, Micah Johnson, was a hero, adding, “He inspired me to do the same thing.”
A third man posted, “It’s time to wage war and shoot the police first.” The man told people to contact him to organize the effort to shoot officers.
And the fourth man posted, “This needs to happen more often,” regarding picture and videos he posted of officers getting shot.
Craig said in today’s world, anyone who specifically states they want to kill police officers is making a threat, and should not fall under the first amendment. When they arrested the suspects, each one of them said, “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.” Officials say it’s no laughing matter.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Related: Twitter Allows Posts Calling for Cop Killings[/pullquote]
Craig said he plans to contact federal, state and local prosecutors to determine what charges may be brought against the suspects.
“Social media is new territory, and while it’s been established that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, we’re talking about people specifically saying on Facebook they want to kill white police officers,” said Craig, who said the Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit saw the alleged threats while monitoring social media.
“If someone threatens to kill the president, that person would be arrested and prosecuted. How is it any different when someone threatens to kill white cops?”
“I know this is a new issue, but I want these people charged with crimes,” Craig said of the four men arrested. “I’ve directed my officers to prepare warrants for these four individuals, and we’ll see which venue is the best to pursue charges.”
Craig said two of the suspects were released and warrants will be submitted. The other two men remain jailed because of outstanding warrants, Craig said.
Craig said it should be a crime to make threats to kill police officers. “Especially now, in this current climate,” he said. “I don’t think that’s protected speech.
“In California, if you threaten to kill someone, the state statute says that’s a terrorist threat,” Craig said. “When I was in L.A., I personally arrested people for that. But with social media threats, it’s a new issue that needs to be clarified. So let’s clarify it now.”
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