OMAHA — Sen. Joni Ernst led a charity motorcycle ride Saturday in Iowa, one day after a Nebraska man was arrested for threatening to kill her at the fundraiser.
Robert William Simet, 64, of Omaha was taken into custody Friday after telling employees at Loess Hills Harley-Davidson in Pacific Junction, Iowa, that “everybody in the government needs to be killed off” and specifically mentioning Mrs. Ernst.
“The unknown male went on to say that he knew Joni Ernst would be here Saturday and ‘I could kill her, they would kill me, it would not matter, I would win either way,’” said the affidavit filed Friday by FBI special agent Jonathan Robitaille.
Mr. Simet, who has a firearm registered in Nebraska’s Douglas County, was booked into Pottawattamie County Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The suspect is scheduled to appear Tuesday at a detention hearing via video before Chief Magistrate Judge Helen C. Adams for threatening to assault a federal official.
The arrest comes with members of Congress on alert after a gunman wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on June 14 at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.
The three Iowa Harley-Davidson employees interviewed by the FBI didn’t know Mr. Simet — one said he called himself as “Joe” — but the FBI tracked his driver’s license using a credit-card receipt from a tire purchase.
Details in the affidavit raised questions about his mental competence: Mr. Simet told the employees that he believed the Republican Ernst was part of ISIS, and he engaged in “conspiracy talk about Trump, Putin and ISIS.”
One worker described him as “agitated and on edge.” A trip to Mr. Simet’s home in Omaha revealed that “[m]any of the windows were covered by aluminum foil on the interior. A security camera was attached to the house.”
Despite the threat, Mr. Ernst appeared as planned Saturday at the Ride for Our Military Kids, which saw riders head from the Harley-Davidson dealership in Pacific Junction to Freedom Rock in Hamburg, Iowa.
“She talked about what the organization meant to her personally because she was deployed when her daughter was three,” said Harley-Davidson employee Jaycee Mansfield. “Then they all hopped on their bikes and headed to Hamburg.”
Mr. Simet has had previous run-ins with the law: He was convicted of felony burglary but granted a pardon in 2000 “with full restoration of gun rights.” In 2013, he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery, the affidavit said.
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