New York man arrested after death threat to GOP congressman

Associated Press

Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.  — A Long Island man has been arrested for making a death threat against a Republican congressional member who voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure package, police said.

Kenneth Gasper, 64, was arrested Wednesday for a telephoned death threat against Rep. Andrew Garbarino, Nassau County police said in a news release.

Police said Gasper made the phone call Monday over a vote by Garbarino that Gasper “did not agree with.”

Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino arrives at Bayport-Blue Point High School to vote, in Bayport, N.Y.

Gasper called Garbarino’s district office, cursed at the staff member who answered and called Garbarino a RINO, an insult that stands for “Republican in name only,” according to the criminal complaint. Gasper warned that if he saw Garbarino on the street he would kill him, the complaint says.

Gasper, of Lake Ronkonkoma, was arrested on a charge of aggravated second-degree harassment. It wasn’t clear whether he had an attorney who could comment on the charge. There was no answer at a phone listing for Gasper.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said his department has “zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

“In the world that we’re living in today, the climate that is out there, these threats we take very seriously,” Ryder said at a news conference Friday.

Garbarino, who was elected in 2020 after longtime congressional member Peter King announced his retirement, was one of 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure package Nov. 5.

The 13 defectors have been attacked by fellow Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, over their vote. Republican leaders have been largely silent on the attacks.

Garbarino told the New York Post that “misinformation” spread by his House colleagues, as well as conservative pundits, has put the members’ safety at risk.

“There are members of Congress that are fundraising off of their misinformation and attacking us, and it’s causing us to get death threats on the other side,” he said.

While the infrastructure vote appears to have led some opponents of the legislation to threaten lawmakers, death threats against elected officials were already on the rise.

The chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, J. Thomas Manger, told The Associated Press in September that his department was seeing thousands more threats against lawmakers than just a few years ago.

Manger predicted that authorities would respond to close to 9,000 threats against members of Congress in 2021.

Police planned a news conference about Gasper’s arrest later Friday.