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Venting or violence? Police probe death threats against Gov. Pritzker over his COVID-19 orders

The governor has been the target of so many threats over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Illinois State Police needed a PowerPoint presentation to detail them all. Some blustered that the governor needs his “a— whooped.” Others described plans to assassinate him.

A boat floats by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Wisconsin home bearing a sign that says “Pritzker sucks.”
A boat floats by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Wisconsin home bearing a sign that says “Pritzker sucks.”
Provided photo.

Illinois State Police have investigated 11 violent threats against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker since the COVID-19 pandemic began, including an email from a man who vowed to “put a bullet through” the governor’s brain.

In another incident, a social media user asked in late May: “Anyone got a high powered sniper rifle I can have? The governor needs to die and I will gladly kill him.” Illinois State Police said they reached that person in the Chicago area, who said it was an attempt to “vent.”

The governor, who lives in Chicago’s Gold Coast, alluded to some of the threats during a news conference May 15 in which he was asked about the whereabouts of his family amid reports they were at his home in Wisconsin during the stay-at-home order.

“I’ve been very private and reserved when it comes to my children, and it’s because there are threats to my safety and to their safety,” Pritzker said.

A bag of garbage labeled “JB Pritzker snacks” that was thrown at Gov. J.B. Pritkzer’s Lake Geneva house.
A bag of garbage labeled “JB Pritzker snacks” that was thrown at Gov. J.B. Pritkzer’s Lake Geneva house.
Provided photo.

Pritzker’s office said there also have been incidents at Pritzker’s home in Lake Geneva, including a bag of garbage thrown onto his property that read “JB Pritzker snacks.”

The governor’s office provided the Sun-Times with a photo of the bag of garbage, as well as photos of a man flipping off the home from atop a boat and another of a boater with a printed sign that read “Pritzker Sucks.” No members of the Pritzker family were home during those incidents.

Pritzker has been the target of so many threats over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Illinois State Police needed a PowerPoint presentation to detail them all.

Some blustered that the governor needs his “a— whooped.” Others described plans to assassinate him, using everything from knives or 12-gauge shotguns to nuclear devices.

The most serious of them came from social media, and each was investigated by agents with the Illinois State Police. The threats led the governor to beef up his security details, from the usual two to occasionally as many as five agents, accompanying him to his home and to news conferences.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker puts away his face mask before delivering his daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center in April.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker puts away his face mask before delivering his daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center in April.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file.

Pritzker’s detail first advised him of threats made March 15 on his Facebook page, including one that read, “your s--- is dead.” Special agents from the Illinois State Police made contact with that person, who reported being “upset/depressed about their 401 K performing poorly due to the current COVID situation,” according to an Illinois State Police executive summary. “Subject indicated they meant no ill will toward the Governor,” the report said.

On April 8, the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center was sent information about a man who said the governor needs to have his “a— whooped,” according to the summary. That threat came from an inmate at Cook County Jail, who was interviewed by agents and said he was not threatening the governor and it was “not to be taken as a threat.”

The threats became more violent in the ensuing weeks when Geneseo Police in northwestern Illinois sent the terrorism and intelligence center an online threat from someone who said they’d “love to slit your f------ throat,” referring to the governor. State Police in the Quad Cities interviewed the person, and the Henry County state’s attorney declined to press charges, State Police said.

A boater flips off Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Lake Geneva summer home.
A boater flips off Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Lake Geneva summer home.
Provided photo.

The most violent threat came in late April, when State police investigated an email and eight comments sent by the same person. In a message April 25, the person wrote, “you will suffer death, via a bullet in your brain.”

The message in total read: “U will reap the whirlwind you F------ IDIOT. U WILL DIE, REAL SOON. mark my words you peice [sic] of s---, you will suffer death, via a bullet in your brain. mark my words you peice [sic] of s---, you will suffer death, via a bullet in your brain. Get ready to reap the whirlwind motherf-----, we are coming, gunnning, we are going to kill you. Come and get it moitherf----- [sic], I AM GOING TO KILL YOU. write it down while you have time, you will die soon you F------ COMMY.”

That message came from someone in the Collinsville area in southern Illinois. Agents made contact with the author, “who stated they were frustrated and apologetic and advised they will no longer make threatening comments,” the report said.

On May 14, police were notified of a call by the United States Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor in which a caller said, “I request the execution of the Governor of Illinois and my father.”

The person was ultimately sent to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, but police learned the same person authored several social media posts stating “Kill the governor” and posted a video warning, “I am confirming my desire for a nuclear detonation at this location.”

When interviewed by State Police at a hospital, the person said they had no intentions or plans to harm Pritzker, police said.

A call to a state representative in Collinsville prompted another investigation May 18. In a voicemail about Pritzker, a caller called him an “idiot” and said: “They need to get rid of him. Blow his brains out or do something.”

Agents interviewed the person who sent the voicemail, who told them it was made out of frustration with the governor and the current economic climate. They told police “they would never harm” the governor or anyone else.

A social media post by a Centralia author in southern Illinois on May 27 read “id much rather shoot the enemy that is Pritzker and anyone like him.” The person also wrote, “I’ve been temporarily talked out of it. BUT IAM [sic] NOT ABOVE VIOLENCE.” Agents interviewed the author, who said they were “venting” about Pritzker’s stay-at-home order “and about how people were losing their jobs.”

There were also two other social media instances May 28 — comments to news stories about Pritzker’s executive order — that State Police investigated. Both were interviewed and said they had no intention to harm the governor. One said they wanted to “shoot him in his face.”