Authorities in Colorado have brought a hate crime charge as well as felony charges against a 59-year-old man who allegedly left threatening voicemail messages for U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse. The Democratic lawmaker is Colorado’s only and first Black elected member of Congress.
Per 9Wants to Know, Michael James Kennedy was arrested at his residence by Denver Police on April 6. The charges brought against him include one felony count of stalking – threat through repeated communications, one felony count of retaliation against an elected official, and a misdemeanor count of bias-motivated crime – placing the victim in fear. His bail was set at $50,000.
Court documents stated that Kennedy allegedly subjected Neguse to “repeated telephonic threats of gun-based violence and retaliation.” “The repeated threats included a clear racial animus toward Rep. Neguse,” an investigator reported in an arrest warrant affidavit, which stated that Kennedy made 17 different threats via messages – with the most recent one being sent in June 2022.
“What are you gonna do about me,” the accused man said in one message, per the affidavit. “I got me a AK-47 pointed directly at you.”
Many of the threats made reference to the Buffalo mass shooting that took the lives of 10 Black people. In one of the calls, Kennedy asked Democrats to “stand up and say white supremacy.” He also pronounced Neguse’s name as “negroes” on a different call.
During questioning in June, the affidavit stated that Kennedy told Denver police that he did not intend to shoot the Black congressman, adding that his plan was to “scare him.” He also said he was going to stop calling Neguse.
Though no weapon was found in Kennedy’s home after investigators conducted a search, the affidavit stated that the accused man expressed his desire to purchase a firearm, 9Wants to Know reported.
Besides Neguse, Kennedy is also accused of leaving threatening and “racially-charged messages” for Democratic politicians, including Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock – who is also Black; U.S. Rep., Diana DeGette; and Colorado Gov., Jared Polis.
The son of Eritrean immigrants, Joe Neguse made history in 2018 when he became Colorado’s first Black U.S. representative. He also retained his seat in 2020 and 2022.