The Kalispell man accused of making deadly threats against schools and Jewish people on social media had transported guns to his home the day before he was arrested, according to law enforcement.
Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset said that was the “red flag” that took the threat to another level and led to the arrest of David Joseph Lenio at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Monday afternoon.
Lenio, 28, has been charged with felony malicious intimidation and could appear in Flathead County Justice Court as early as this afternoon.
“(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.”
According to Nasset, Lenio sent a series of messages on Twitter between Feb. 12-15 that threatened school-aged children and Jewish people. Earlier posts even mentioned the possibility of a school shooting somewhere in the Flathead Valley.
In one post that was captured in a screenshot online, Lenio allegedly wrote, “I bet I’d take out at least a whole classroom & score 30+ if I put my mind to it. Poverty is making me want to kill folks.”
On Feb. 14, Jonathan Hutson, a spokesperson for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington D.C., tweeted a link to a story about a shooting at a synagogue in Copenhagen. Lenio responded and began flooding Hutson’s Twitter feed with anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Hutson initially ignored the tweets, but Lenio continued to harass him, even asking the man where his children went to school. Hutson, who previously worked as an investigative journalist, began to research Lenio and found his YouTube page, where Lenio talks about various mass shootings. Because Lenio listed his location as “Cascadia,” Hutson believed he lived in Oregon and called the FBI office in Portland.
Oregon authorities discovered Lenio was living in Kalispell, and on Feb. 15 at 11 p.m., the Kalispell Police Department was informed of Lenio’s activity. Nasset organized a team to investigate the threat in coordination with the FBI.
Nasset said police reached out to Lenio’s father in Michigan who told officers that we was worried about his son’s mental state. Law enforcement also discovered that Lenio had moved two rifles to his house on Sunday.
“(Moving the guns) gave him the opportunity and the means to carry out what he had been saying,” Nasset said.
Law enforcement officers found out that Lenio was at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Monday afternoon, and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Whitefish Police Department sent officers to watch his vehicle. When Lenio came back from snowboarding, officers placed him under arrest.
Lenio is awaiting a mental health evaluation at the Flathead County Detention Center.
A search of Lenio’s vehicle turned up a pistol and a search of his home turned up two rifles, according to authorities.
Nasset said the threat was so serious that some area schools that were open on Monday were put on a soft lockdown and extra officers were stationed nearby.
Most valley schools were not in session because of Presidents Day, including all of Kalispell’s public schools. Law enforcement notified school administrators Monday morning that a general threat against schools had been made, according to Kalispell Superintendent Mark Flatau.
“At that point, the threat was certainly concerning but it was nebulous and general and incoherent. Police told us there should be more information as the day rolls along,” Flatau said.
Later that afternoon, more than 30 school administrators from around the valley met at the Kalispell School District Office and received a briefing from police, who informed them that Lenio was located at the ski resort and was being monitored.
That evening Flatau sent out a recorded message to over 5,800 families in the Kalispell school district informing them of the situation.
“I wanted to get the information out, even though it may be concerning,” he said.
“We know we can never make an assumption that it’s not a viable threat and we have to act. We have to act appropriately. The most important thing we do besides educating students is providing a safe, supportive environment.”
Hutson, the man who first reported the online statements, said he was glad he took the time to report Lenio’s online activity.
“I’m relived that America isn’t reading about a mass shooting in Kalispell, Mont., today,” Hutson said. “Law enforcement did a stellar job responding to a tip from a concerned dad.”
Dillon Tabish contributed reporting to this story.