Michael Cummins Threatened Ron Barber With "Bashing" in Message From Arkansas, Feds Say
An ominous phone threat to the office of Democratic Congressman Ron Barber has resulted in the indictment of a man from Arkansas.
Image: Jeff Keyzer via flickr.com
(Click here for update -- Cummins apparently lives in Sierra Vista)
Michael Wayne Cummins called Barber's office in Sierra Vista on August 20th, court records state, spelling his name for a staff member and providing his phone number.
Cummins informed the staff member that he'd like to assault Barber, a survivor of the 2011 Tucson shooting massacre that wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
"I am not interested in killing Ron, but I am interested in bashing his teeth in and seeing him rot in hell," Cummins told the staff member.
He went on with a more general threat, records state: "I am just going to start killing people indiscriminately."
Definitely an attention-getting phone call.
The FBI soon figured out the call had come from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and that's where they located Cummins. He gave his phone number during an interview with agents. No surprise there -- it was the same number used by the threatening caller. Cummins then confessed to making the call, the complaint says.
The threat would be troubling enough for any elected official. But Barber, Giffords' former district director, knows firsthand what a maniac who wants to kill "indiscriminately" can do. He took bullets to the face and thigh during the January 8, 2011 shooting that killed six people and wounded 19 others.
Barber took over Giffords' seat following two elections. His horrific encounter with schizophrenic shooter Jared Lee Loughner has spurred him to seek funding to train first-responders and teachers how to spot potentially violent people with mental illnesses.
We can't tell you what Cummins' problem was, or even his hometown. We tried to reach his federal public defender in Arkansas, James Pierce, on Thursday afternoon, but Pierce never called back.
Records show Cummins, born in 1948, was picked up by the FBI on August 26th and taken to Arizona, where he's being held under a detention order signed by Arizona U.S. District Magistrate Judge Jaqueline Rateau. He was assigned a Tucson public defender, Matei Tarail.
On Wednesday, Cummins was indicted by a federal grand jury for threatening to assault Barber with "intent to impede, intimidate or interfere," with the congressman, or with "intent to retaliate against Ron Barber on account of the performance of his official duties."
Cummins is scheduled to appear for his arraignment before Magistrate Judge Hector Estrada at 11 a.m. on October 4th in Tucson federal court.
That brief phone call on August 20th could mean some prison time for Cummins. In a somewhat similar case from 2010, for example, Charles Alan Wilson of Washington was sentenced to a year and a day in jail for leaving numerous, threatening phone calls at the office of Washington Senator Patty Murray.