Internet threat leads to arrest
Athens police say teen guardsman urged cop killings
By Holly Hollman
ATHENS — With the lingering effects of two Athens policemen “shot down in cold blood,” Mayor Dan Williams said he is shocked and disappointed that an Alabama National Guardsman would threaten Athens officers via the Internet.
Police Capt. Marty Bruce said Robert Bradley Tanksley, 19, of 1404 S. Houston St., Athens, allegedly wrote on his MySpace page, “Kill an Athens Cop today ... There Bastards.”
Police did not take the grammatically incorrect posting on the Internet — “There” should have been “They’re” — as a joke.
“We take any threat like this seriously because you can never tell who might be out there reading this material,” Bruce said.
"Any time we find a threat like this, we will search for the responsible person and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. An officer's life can be taken in a minute without any provocation."
Police contacted MySpace.com, and the company disabled Tanksley's site Thursday.
Tanksley said he was angry but didn't actually mean for anyone to kill Athens officers. He apologized for the comment.
The mayor said Tanksley's comments were inappropriate, especially since admitted cop killer Farron Barksdale pleaded guilty to capital murder in July for the January 2004 shooting deaths of officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell.
Barksdale was serving life without parole in a state prison when he died Aug. 20. The state has conducted an autopsy and results on the cause of death are pending. His funeral and burial were to be Saturday morning.
"It was a foolish thing to do, regardless, but at a time like this, when the community has its mind on the shootings, it was just shocking to hear someone did that," Williams said. "I'm a retired member of the Guard, and there are members of the Guard fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his actions are a slam on everything the Guard stands for. He should feel the wrath of the community for this. We would be negligent if we don't push this to the limit."
According to police reports, Tanksley works on the production line at Steelcase and is a member of the National Guard.
Police charged Tanksley with inciting to riot, a misdemeanor. He is out of Limestone County Jail on $1,000 bond.
District Attorney Kristi Valls said police consulted her about charges against Tanksley. She said the threat did not meet the requirements for a charge of making a terrorist threat, which is a felony.
For example, Tanksley did not make a direct threat to a person and did not include specifics such as a time or place.
Valls said inciting to riot is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to a year in jail.
What led Tanksley to allegedly post the threat was the loss of his vehicle, Bruce said.
On Aug. 18, officer Chris Rose cited Tanksley for driving while his license was suspended, improper tag and reckless driving, Bruce said.
Rose had a wrecker service impound the vehicle, which is required under a new ordinance the City Council approved in June. The ordinance states that officers are to impound a vehicle if the driver has no license or is driving while his license is suspended or revoked.
Officers began enforcing the ordinance Aug. 9. They impounded 122 vehicles as of Thursday, Bruce said.
When Tanksley's vehicle was impounded, Rose tried to help him, Bruce said.
"Tanksley said the officer was respectful to him and offered him a ride home," Bruce said. "He did not want to ride in a police car."
Tanksley walked home, Bruce said, and then allegedly posted the threat on his MySpace page. Someone in Alaska who used to live in Athens saw the threat and notified police, Bruce said.
Authorities arrested Tanks-ley at his home Thursday evening.
Bruce said he admitted to posting the threat.
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