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United States

‘Let’s make this work’: man arrested after allegedly offering US$500 bounty for killing an immigration agent

Brandon Ziobrowski of Massachusetts allegedly tweeted a series of threats ‘under the guise of political debate’, prosecutors say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 2:30pm

A Massachusetts man was arrested and charged after tweeting a murder-for-hire offer: US$500 to anyone who kills an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent, according to a federal indictment.

On Thursday, Cambridge resident Brandon Ziobrowski, 33, was charged with using interstate and foreign commerce to transmit a threat to injure another person, a federal felony offence, one example in a spate of threats communicated “under the guise of political debate,” according to the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling.

Ziobrowski created a Twitter account in March 2009. Using the handle @Vine_II, his tweets allegedly became increasingly threatening over time, spiking in 2018 with violence-inducing messages targeted at law enforcement.

I am broke but I will scrounge and literally give $500 to anyone who kills an ice agent. @me seriously who else can pledge get in on this let’s make this work
Brandon Ziobrowski in a tweet last month

On February 24, 2018, Ziobrowski tweeted “Guns should only be legal for shooting the police like the second amendment intended,” according to the indictment. He further shared anti-law enforcement sentiments online, posting, “F*** this police state shooting a cop should get you a medal.”

He shifted the bull’s eye from police officers to federal agents soon thereafter and tweeted in July, “I am broke but I will scrounge and literally give $500 to anyone who kills an ice agent. @me seriously who else can pledge get in on this let’s make this work.” At the time, he had over 400 followers; two liked the message.

Ziobrowski also threatened to “slit” US Senator John McCain’s throat on a separate occasion.

The Department of Homeland Security discovered the social platform posts while combing the Internet for domestic and international terrorism threats, according to the indictment.

Per its user policy, Twitter cooperated in removing Ziobrowski’s threats and suspending his account.

In recent months, according to Lelling, WikiLeaks released the names and addresses of federal agents. Four commonwealth officers have also been shot, two fatally.

“Homeland Security employees have been warned of an increasing number of threats and urged to take safety precautions in public,” said Lelling. “A threat [Ziobrowski’s] Twitter followers, or their followers, could have taken seriously, and which his intended victims – federal agents – did take seriously.”

Ziobrowski’s arrest also comes amid weeks of public battles revolving around First Amendment claims, such as Defense Distributed’s Cody Wilson and Infowars’ Alex Jones. At a briefing Thursday, representatives of ICE evinced that free speech did not include offers to have federal law enforcement officers murdered.

“Threats to law enforcement, no matter how they are communicated, are never taken lightly,” said Special Agent In Charge Peter Fitzhugh of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Boston.

Ziobrowski, who was released Thursday on a US$50,000 bond, faces up to five years in prison if convicted.