BAY CITY, Mich. (WXYZ) — A Michigan man has been accused of making a series of death threats against law enforcement, members of the LGBTQ+ community and Democratic government officials.
The FBI says Randall Robert Berka II of Sebewaing, which is about an hour north of Flint, posted multiple death threats on a YouTube channel, writing error-filled statements including: “im gonna kill lgbt freaks and same America” … “you could be like me and get guns and threaten to kill politicians. Im more than willing tot kill whitmer and I do live in Michigan” … and “I can, I have guns and ill kill lgbt freaks and democrat polioticians.”
Friday, the 30 year old suspect was arrested on a federal gun charge after investigators looked further into the threats they say he made online.
According to the criminal complaint, the posts were discovered and an investigation was launched by FBI Detroit after receiving a tip from Google informing the agency of the threats.
“We will take immediate action when we learn of individuals illegally possessing firearms and threatening to harm or kill others,” said U.S. Attorney Ison. “I applaud Google’s vigilance in this matter, and we hope members of the community will, likewise, pay attention and report such conduct to law enforcement.”
The FBI said through an investigation, they discovered Randall Berka II was involuntarily committed for mental health treatment in 2012, and that the state determined he was legally incapacitated in 2013, making him prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
On March 9, the FBI stated they interviewed Berka II’s mother and she reportedly admitted to buying three long guns and a pistol for her son in the last year that he keeps in his room. According to the criminal complaint, she told officials he had ammunition and body armor. She reportedly said she was scared of him and didn’t think mental health treatment was working. Berka's mother also told investigations that her son was a daily marijuana user, according to the complaint.
LGBTQ community activists say the statements Berka made about drag performers, transgender and gay individuals were disappointing but not uncommon.
"It’s calculated and manipulative because there’s a duality there. You’re coming across as the savior but it's at the expense of others humanity," said Jeynce Poindexter who has been a community activist for more than a decade. "We’re people first. Remember that I’m someone’s child. I’m someone's aunt. I’m someone's cousin. I have people who care about me."
Poindexter says it's scary that the 30-year-old suspect, who subscribed to bigoted ideals, also had the capacity to carry out the threats he made.
"We’ve been to the funerals of some people who talked just like that and carried out the actions against our friends, of our loved ones. So, we firsthand know that these threats definitely have the capacity to become real actions," said Poindexter.
She says she believes recent anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation across the nation plays a direct role in hate speech like Berka's.
"These are demographics of marginalized people who are already in survival mode. They are just trying to figure out how to be and the fact that we have legislators, people that are supposed to represent the people, going after and villainizing those who have already been made to survive in unfortunate circrumstances, in discriminatory circumstances, in harmful family structures and in society. It’s really sad for me," said Poindexter.
7 Action News reached out to Governor Whitmer's office and Attorney General Dana Nessel's office for comment but did not immediately hear back. AG Nessel has was recently targeted with antisemitic threats and has been vocal in the past about the dangers that extremism poses.
Berka was arraigned Friday afternoon on a charge of Prohibited Person in Possession of a Firearm. The FBI says based on the crimes alleged, Berka could face up to 15 years in prison.
It's unclear if Berka's mother, who investigators say admitted to buying the firearms for her son, will face charges. The FBI says the investigation is ongoing.
“This defendant’s actions were very alarming,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “When free speech crosses a line and becomes a threat of violence against another – aggravated by the illegal possession of firearms – the full investigative resources of the FBI will be brought to bear. As always, we encourage the public to be vigilant and report concerning behavior to the FBI and local law enforcement.”