A Virginia man in jail for threatening to shoot U.S. senators on Twitter has claimed the messages are just a misunderstanding.
Kyler Schmitz threatened to shoot multiple senators, including Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in a series of tweets in mid-June, following the Orlando massacre that claimed 49 lives in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. He was arrested Friday and is being held by U.S. Capitol Police, Politico reported.
But Schmitz said through his defense attorney in a Monday hearing that the messages were meant to be a satirical response to Democrats and Republicans’ stalemate over the issue of gun control.
Schmitz had tweeted Blunt two days after the Orlando shooting, threatening to “shoot [him] in the head for allowing someone to murder my loved ones.” A Twitter account matching the tweets described in court documents also appeared to tag Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., in similar threatening messages.
His tweet to Blunt was flagged by a staffer for Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section, which dispatched two agents to Schmitz’s home June 15 after the message was posted, Politico reported.
According to an affidavit filed by one of the agents, Schmitz acknowledged that he had sent the message as a “direct threat,” Politico reported.
Testimony at Monday’s court hearing indicated Schmitz does not own a gun, NBC Washington reported. But court documents showed the he may have been trying to obtain one.
According to the affidavit, Schmitz told Capitol Police agents he “talked to another user on Twitter about purchasing a gun, but was unsuccessful,” Politico reported.
Capitol Police arrested Schmitz the following week, after discovering Schmitz was continuing to threaten lawmakers on the platform. Schmitz also appeared to have tweeted at House and Senate Republicans’ accounts, saying, “I can’t wait to shoot you in the face one by one.”
Before he was arrested, Schmitz tweeted extensively at Capitol Police that his tweets were “a legal expression of feelings...using exaggerated character traits that are unrealistic.”
“Only a moron would think take them as serious threats yet they do define the dangers of guns in a graphic and realistic way,” he wrote.
Schmitz also accused Capitol Police — in the same series of tweets — of “McCarthy Era” behavior by questioning him in person.
“[D]o you knock on the door of every twitterer that blogs a satirical series of expressive tweets?” he wrote. “By harassing me & my family for protesting against gun violence, you violated my first amendment rights as an American.”
His fiance, Paul Cianciolo, who was also visited by Capitol Police, told News 4 that the tweets were intended as “parody.”
In a hearing Monday, Schmitz’s defense attorney also said the tweets were “inartful political discourse.”
But the judge said Schmitz will remain jailed until at least the next court proceeding. ““I don’t know how to read these tweets in any way but as threatening,” the judge said, according to NBC Washington.