FBI Investigates Internet Threats Against Law Enforcement

Posted at 9:48 PM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 00:17:38-04

Social media has been a forum for free speech, but posts have also provided the first clues to dangerous threats.

The man who ambushed and murdered three Baton Rouge police officers regularly posted rants on social media against law enforcement.

"Fighting back and money that's all they care about, revenue and blood," the shooter said in one of his last posts.

Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the FBI office in Nashville, Mathew Espenshade, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates they have been very focused on internet threats, especially those against law enforcement.

"Many threats do emanate through banter on the internet," Espenshade said.

"When it comes to law enforcement we are very aggressive with that and to giving out warning orders to police letting them know that individuals have been making threats," he continued.

Court documents from 2015 -- before the recent police shootings -- shed light on how the FBI handles threats.

Last September Metro Police saw a disturbing post on Instagram.

It showed someone pointing a handgun through their vehicle window directly at the car of a state trooper.

The caption stated, "gona die lookin at his computer."


The Instagram account came back to Robert Waddey.

Even though it was only up for one day, investigators were concerned.

They discovered Waddey had been questioned and released the month before for an unrelated incident at a Bellevue apartment complex.

At the time he had "a 9mm Glock pistol" and "approximately 1500 rounds of ammunition" in his jeep.

Metro police contacted the FBI.

Further investigation revealed that Waddey had made a questionable comment toward law enforcement before.

In 2013, Waddey was questioned by police in connection with a domestic violence warrant.

According to court records he said during the interview that "police got the jump on him this time... but police will be ineffective after he snorts cocaine."

The FBI and Agent Espenshade would not comment specifically on the Waddey case, but court documents revealed the FBI was concerned enough to obtain a search warrant for Waddey's Crieve Hall home.

Last November agents seized more than a dozen guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and some marijuana.

Waddey claimed he was high when he took the Instagram picture and that no trooper was in the car.

Currently Waddey has not faced charges for the Instagram post.

But agents used pictures from his cell phone that showed him apparently smoking marijuana to file a criminal complaint against him in December for being a user or addict of a controlled substance inappropriately in possession of a firearm.

"I can't necessarily answer why people do what they do. It's my job to figure out if they have the intent to follow through on what they've said they're going to do," Agent Espenshade said.

He said the FBI has relied on tips from the public and from local law enforcement, and they have always weighed a person's first amendment right to free speech against what could be considered a legitimate threat.

"It's a difficult job, balancing an individual's civil liberties versus what's really a threat," Agent Espenshade said.

There has been no movement on Waddey's case since the criminal complaint was filed in December.

Waddey agreed to undergo counseling and a number of other conditions.

The case remained open.