The Kalispell man accused of threatening school children and religious leaders on social media made his initial appearance in Flathead County Justice Court on Feb. 19.
David Joseph Lenio, 28, who recently moved to the Flathead Valley from Michigan, has been charged with intimidation and criminal defamation, both felonies, after he sent a series of Twitter messages earlier this month saying that he was going to open fire inside a local school and assassinate Jewish religious leaders.
As Lenio was led into the courtroom on Thursday afternoon he yelled “free Palestine” and told people to visit his YouTube page to find the “truth” about the 9/11 attacks and the 2011 shooting of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In one online post on Feb. 12, Lenio wrote, “I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a school. Sounds better than being a wage slave.” And in another tweet, sent on Feb. 15, he wrote, “If my tax dollars can go to blowing up Palestine school kids then surely I can tweet about how cool killing school kids is.”
On Feb. 16, an officer with the Kalispell Police Department contacted Lenio to talk to him about his tweets. Lenio admitted that he had sent the messages and that he was “trying to bring attention to certain social issues.” He then told the officer that he was glad his tweets were gaining the attention of law enforcement and school officials.
Later that same day, an officer talked to Lenio’s roommate, who said that Lenio had brought rifles and ammunition to their home the night before. Police obtained a search warrant of Lenio’s apartment and found a 9mm semi-automatic rifle and a Russian made bolt-action rifle in his bedroom. They also found numerous rounds of ammunition in Lenio’s bedroom and basement. Later they conducted a search of Lenio’s vehicle and found a .32 caliber semi-automatic pistol and more ammunition. They also discovered marijuana, a pipe and jugs of urine.
Lenio was arrested on Feb. 16 at 4:45 p.m. as he was coming back from snowboarding at Whitefish Mountain Resort. The arrest was made in coordination with the Kalispell Police Department, the FBI, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and the Whitefish Police Department.
Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset said the fact that Lenio had moved guns to his house over the weekend was what took the threat to the “next level” and led to his arrest.
“(Lenio posed) a very real threat,” Nasset said. “I did not want children’s blood on my hands because I didn’t do everything I could.”
Lenio is currently in the Flathead County Jail with a bail of $500,000. His arraignment has been set for March 19 at 1:30 p.m.
If convicted, Lenio could face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.