An armed man was killed after trying to breach an Ohio FBI office
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Attorney General Merrick Garland condemned the violent threats directed at the Department of Justice and the FBI. And now we're learning more about an attack on an FBI office in Cincinnati that started yesterday morning. Authorities say an armed man tried to breach the FBI building there, before fleeing. And after a standoff, police shot and killed him. A lot of details in this case are still murky. NPR's Tom Dreisbach is here to help clear things up. Tom, what do we know about what happened?
TOM DREISBACH, BYLINE: Well, NPR has confirmed with sources that the suspect's name in this case is Ricky Shiffer. Public records indicate he's 42 years old. The FBI said he was armed when he tried to enter an FBI building through a visitor screening center. An alarm went off. FBI special agents then responded, and Shiffer fled. The Ohio State Highway Patrol said he was driving a Ford Crown Victoria. There was a chase. Eventually, they came to a stop by the side of the road in a rural area. The gunman then shot at the police and took cover behind the car. And for about the next six hours, there was a standoff and unsuccessful attempts at negotiation. Then in the afternoon, the police claimed that he raised a gun, and then police shot and killed him.
MARTÍNEZ: Any word on his motive?
DREISBACH: Well, it's still very early. There are some possible indications. Social media accounts under his name - though, I should say, we have not independently confirmed that they belong to this suspect. But they are under his name, and they indicate that he was with the pro-Trump protesters outside the Capitol during the attack on January 6, 2021. He has not been charged, though, in connection with the Capitol riot. This week, since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, though, this account under his name on the Trump-backed social media site Truth Social posted many times, and not long after Shiffer was identified in this incident, those posts were removed. We were able to gather screenshots before then.
MARTÍNEZ: All right, so social media accounts under his name. What else did they say?
DREISBACH: Well, that Truth Social account I mentioned said specifically that he wanted to cause violence in response to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. It said, quote, "I am proposing war," and, quote, "kill the FBI on sight." He also compared the FBI to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police. He referenced other motivations, including the Alex Jones defamation case, the fact that former White House adviser Steve Bannon might go to jail for contempt of Congress. He said that 1776 - the American Revolution, of course - was for far less. Now, shortly after the attack on the FBI office, this account posted, quote, "I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass, and I didn't. If you don't hear from me, it's true. I tried attacking the FBI."
MARTÍNEZ: You know, we've seen some violent and extremist rhetoric since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago. Where does this fit in?
DREISBACH: Well, all week, I've been talking with extremism researchers about what they're seeing, and it's been a lot of similar talk - talk of arming up, another civil war. And researchers told me that the level of violent rhetoric is similar to what we saw just before January 6. Here's Heidi Beirich. She's the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.
HEIDI BEIRICH: There's almost a hysteria of violence coming out of these far-right circles in reaction to the search at Mar-a-Lago.
DREISBACH: And given those parallels with the runup to January 6, what we know is a lot of people who went on to storm the Capitol talked about their plans in plain sight, and law enforcement, government agencies just did not take the threat seriously enough. So experts like Beirich are sounding the alarm now.
MARTÍNEZ: And where are you seeing these kinds of comments?
DREISBACH: Well, some of it is happening on extremist forums. But I should say that it is not just the fringe making this kind of extreme rhetoric. Former White House adviser Steve Bannon went on Alex Jones' show this week, the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and he compared the FBI to the Gestapo himself. He said, without any apparent basis, that the government might actually be trying to kill Trump.
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STEVE BANNON: I do not think it's beyond this administrative state and their deep state apparatus to actually try to work on the assassination of President Trump.
DREISBACH: Now, he specifically told his followers not to be violent. But before yesterday's attack, I talked to Alex Friedfeld with the Anti-Defamation League, and he said Bannon was playing a dangerous game.
ALEX FRIEDFELD: When you tell a story like that of the other side being willing to go to any lengths to harm the country, they're essentially laying the dots out there for their listeners to connect, and when you connect those dots, it becomes far more plausible to use violence.
DREISBACH: Bannon told NPR in a statement, quote, "his show's mantra is investigate, litigate, incarcerate. There is no place for violence, as we have the votes and the political muscle to win elections."
MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Tom Dreisbach. Thanks, Tom.
DREISBACH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.