A Cranston man, and former Warwick firefighter, has been accused of sending “tens-of-thousands of messages” threatening to shoot and kill Rhode Island politicians and public safety …
A Cranston man, and former Warwick firefighter, has been accused of sending “tens-of-thousands of messages” threatening to shoot and kill Rhode Island politicians and public safety officers.
In February 2018 a commenter writing under the name “TheShapeofThings” posted the following threat on a political website:
“A terror incident is unfolding in Warwick Rhode Island where police are waiting patiently for a terrorist with an AK47 to walk into Warwick Rhode Island Fire department headquarters and start slaughtering public officials.”
It wasn’t the first online post threatening to kill Warwick police and firefighters.
In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, threatening emails and posts linked to a Cranston man and former Warwick firefighter date back to 2014.
“Don’t be alarmed, this is well planned out and the terrorist will be killed,” the post continued. “The only problem is, I am not buying a weapon, I never threatened anyone and this is why people commit mass killings, If I did, you would never find out why a person who lives life like a boy scout could mysteriously start slaughtering what is advertised in local media, innocent people. The abusers are given status as angles and the victims labeled terrorist. The new American way.”
U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha filed court documents this week alleging “Barry J. LaFleur, 57, of Cranston, a retired Warwick Fire Department Lieutenant with 23 years of service, made threats of violence (e.g. to kill, shoot, commit work-place slaughters; terror incidents, and mass killings), directed mainly towards public officials in the City of Warwick, in tens-of-thousands of messages he authored and transmitted primarily via emails and online postings.”
LaFleur, of 204 Narragansett St., Floor 2, Cranston, made his first appearance in federal court in Providence Wednesday. He was “charged by way of a federal criminal complaint with threats to injure the person of another transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce,” according to Cunha’s office.
“Charging documents allege that LaFleur transmitted the threats both while employed and after his retirement from the Warwick Fire Department,” according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.
Approximately eight years ago, in September 2014, LaFleur was arrested and charged with making Crank or Obscene Phone Calls and Threats to Public Officials.
City police alleged that LaFleur was temporarily off-duty due to a physical work-related injury, but then failed to return to the department. Physically, LaFleur was eventually cleared by a doctor to return to work, but not mentally, according to prosecutors.
According to the criminal complaint, after LaFleur was placed on administrative leave without pay, he allegedly sent 37 emails, “some with implied threats of physical harm” to the then Warwick Fire Department Chief Edmund B. Armstrong.
“FaFleur subsequently threatened to shoot or kill multiple members of the WFD,” according to the criminal complaint.
The charges were dismissed in November 2014.
That same month in 2014, the Rhode Island State Police investigated a complaint from the Rhode Island Governor’s office.
Now former Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s office received 57 emails from an account eventually linked to LaFleur, according to prosecutors. The email that prompted Chafee’s office to contact police contained the subject line “Terrorism.”
No criminal charges were filed at the time.
Prosecutors allege LaFleur continued to write threatening posts on various news websites and social media platforms.
“I hate police, Literally,” he allegedly posted in 2017 on lawofficer.com. “I am a veteran that was a lieutenant on the city of Warwick fire department when I was labeled a terrorist that was threatening to kill multiple on duty firefighters and given the full cop treatment…I am waiting for one of you American heroes to put a bullet in my head and finish the job. Feel free, it would be better that living in your hell.”
In June 2021, LaFleur allegedly took his grievances to Firehouse.com, posting under his first name, “Barry.”
“This not the first time I have been here telling the world what goes on in that city, only to be ignored by ‘brother’ firefighters,” “Barry” wrote in one post. “The only clear solution is for me to go there and take care of them myself in lieu of justice.”
In a second post, “Barry” wrote: “I am a veteran and disabled firefighter, if every firefighter I ever knew died today, I would not care one bit. Defend that.”
The threats continued:
“The investigation into me allegedly threatening to kill the Warwick fire chief with an ak47 proved only one thing, if I had killed the son of a bitch, he would have had it coming. The only thing more disgusting that the firefighters in that city are the police and public officials.”
In one post, LaFleur allegedly threatened the entire city.
“That city should be blown back to the hell it was created in,” he allegedly wrote.
The threats continued through September 2021, when a reader in Texas contacted the Warwick Police to report comments posted by user “ylem” on a Yahoo feature article (the FBI eventually linked the account to LaFleur, according to prosecutors).
“I was injured while fighting a fire,” according to the post. “The city did not want to pay me specifically, so i was accused of threatening to kill a public official with an ak47. My new job is to kill public officials and police in Rhode Island. Especially the mayor, police and fire chiefs in Warwick. Somebody has to kill them, I am not too busy. I no longer have a home, or job, or life to speak of, but I do have plenty of time, and a mandate.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at the FBI Providence Resident Agency, with the assistance of the Rhode Island State Police and the Warwick and Cranston police departments.
In the criminal complaint, prosecutors allege that all of the threats made by LaFleur and documented in court filings “share similar themes and context.”
“Some of the commonalities that emerge are (1) that the author was a city of Warwick firefighter, (2) there were threats of violence (e.g. to kill, shoot, commit work place slaughters; terror incidents, and mass killings), mainly directed towards public officials (police department, fire department, mayor), mainly from the City of Warwick RI,” according to the complaint.
Investigators reviewed 32,359 posts made by usernames connected to LaFleur, and found “numerous comments pertaining to violence, implied violence, and anti-government sentiments,” according to prosecutors.
LaFleur was arrested without incident, with the help of U.S. Secret Service and Cranston Police. He appeared before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond and was released on unsecured bond to home detention with electronic GPS monitoring, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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