A Las Vegas man was arrested and charged with falsely communicating an act of terrorism for allegedly threatening to shot up an LGBTQ community event.
Michael Zahara, 61, is accused of sending a text to affiliates and attending members of the Human Rights Campaign of Nevada saying he was “planning to shoot up Nazi HRC event.” Zahara allegedly sent the threat after receiving a text from the organization advertising an Oct. 18 event at the LGBTQ+ Center of Southern Nevada.
An HRC employee told police that the organization uses an app that sends out information to people who are subscribed to receive messages. It is unclear how Zahara’s name came to be on the list of subscribers, which usually requires a person to pro-actively sign up for updates.
The HRC employee told Las Vegas-area CBS affiliate KLAS the threatening text was received on Oct. 13, five days prior to the community event.
Officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department contacted a person — whose name was redacted in an arrest report — who informed the officers that he was no longer associated with the phone number that sent the threatening text message. He also told police it was his family’s phone number, which hadn’t been used in 15 years. The man also told police he was a Democrat and had received the HRC mass text message.
When police called the phone number, a man, later identified as Zahara, answered and said he responded to the message, admitting to texting the threat to HRC. When police asked for his name, he only responded with “Zahara,” and told them: “If you were really the police you would already know that,” before hanging up.
Police called the number back, at which point Zahara answered, saying he was a Republican and should be on the “do not contact” list. He added that as a Republican, he shouldn’t be getting text messages from HRC. He then hung up a second time and refused to answer a third call from police.
Zahara then allegedly texted detectives the message: “tied up with major family health issues in addition to my own. If you are not a campaign bot I’ll respond,” according to the police report.
Las Vegas police later confirmed that Zahara was subscribed to the phone number, which was linked with prior suspicious activity reports. One of those reports, made in December 2021, was written by a customer service representative, who claimed that Zahara called and threatened to “shoot up the place because his appointment was not soon enough.” The representative wrote, in that complaint, that Zahara sounded intoxicated and let loose a string of anti-LGBTQ insults before hanging up.
A second suspicious activity report was filed on July 11, when Zahara was told he would have to pay for a paratransit trip he scheduled with the Mobility Training Center. Zahara said it was stupid and discriminatory, and he “wondered why you guys don’t get shot up more, hoping someone shoots you up,’ according to the complaint.
Police eventually located and arrested Zahara on Oct. 15. In an interview with police, Zahara claimed to be a politically active person with his own blog. He said he had been a Democrat for 30 years before changing his party in 2018, and had been receiving a large amount of political solicitations from Democratic-leaning organizations, according to a police arrest report.
Zahara also said he believed Democrats were “terrorizing him with their propaganda,” and said he responded to the text message from HRC by saying he would “stop by with his piece,” but thought he was only responding to a bot, reports KLAS.
Zahara further claimed he had no weapons in his possession and didn’t believe there would be consequences for sending the message.
A Justice Court judge initially set bail at $20,000, but Zahara was later released on $3,000 bail after the court took into account his financial situation. As part of his release conditions, Zahara agreed to be electronically monitored, was told to stay away from the LGBTQ+ Center of Southern Nevada, and is prohibited from possessing any weapons. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 1.
Elizabeth Bibi, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the organization couldn’t comment on the specific threat but said the organization was grateful for “swift action” taken by police.
“We can say that this is merely another example of the rise in extreme, violent rhetoric and threats targeting the LGBTQ+ community — from Pride parades, to libraries, to hospitals that provide care for LGBTQ+ kids,” Bibi said in the statement. “We know that violent rhetoric leads to stigma, and stigma leads to physical violence — and the so-called leaders spreading anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda are only creating more stigma, discrimination and violence against our community. It has to stop.”
U.S. Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) has penned an op-ed for NBC News calling fellow New York Congressman George Santos, the sole gay Republican in Congress, a "danger to democracy."
Santos has come under fire after admitting to embellishing parts of his résumé and biography, including his work and educational history. He has also been accused of lying about his family heritage, business dealings, his health history, his criminal history, whether or not he owns property, and even how he makes his money. He currently faces at least two investigations -- by local and federal authorities -- looking into his campaign finances, while Brazilian authorities have indicated they intend to reopen a case involving allegations of check fraud against the freshman congressman.
Congressman-elect George Santos, the first openly gay Republican to be elected to Congress as a non-incumbent, admitting to fabricating parts of his résumé and biography following a New York Times exposé published last week.
Speaking with the right-leaning New York Post on Monday, Santos confirmed that he had embellished claims about his educational and work history, but said that the misrepresentations he made won't affect his ability to serve in the next session of Congress, which kicks off on Jan. 3.
"I am not a criminal," Santos said during the interview. "This will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good.
A Republican candidate for Congress found himself being confronted over a more than decade-old Facebook post in which he compared members of the LGBTQ community to people who are "sick, disease," suffer from bipolar disorder, or are addicted to drugs.
Leon Benjamin, the Republican Party's nominee for Virginia's 4th Congressional District, appeared on MSNBC's The Sunday Show last weekend, during which he was confronted by host Jonathan Capehart, a gay man, over the post.
In the post, which was posted in January 2011, Benjamin, a senior pastor at New Life Harvest Church, encouraged people to bring those in need of salvation to an event at his church.
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