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Man arrested near Kavanaugh's home charged with attempting to murder Supreme Court justice

Washington — A California man who was allegedly armed with a gun, knife and various tools when he was arrested in the early morning near Justice Brett Kavanaugh's house in Maryland has been charged with attempted murder, federal officials said in court papers filed Wednesday.

The man was detained around 1:50 a.m. after making threats against Kavanaugh, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Maryland. The suspect was transported to Montgomery County Police 2nd District in Bethesda, Maryland, Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe said.

The affidavit identified the man as Nicholas John Roske, a 26-year-old from Simi Valley, California. He is charged with attempt to murder a Supreme Court justice. If convicted, Roske faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Roske appeared before Magistrate Judge Timothy Sullivan on Wednesday afternoon, where he consented to remain in custody. He was assigned a court appointed attorney, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 22.

U.S. Deputy Marshals reported seeing a person dressed in black clothing and carrying a backpack and suitcase get out of a taxi that stopped in front of a current justice's house at roughly 1:05 a.m., according to the affidavit. The person looked at the two marshals and turned to walk down the street, the FBI agent wrote.

The Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center then received a call from a person, who identified himself as Roske, saying he was having suicidal thoughts and had a firearm in his suitcase. Roske also said he came from California to kill a "specific United States Supreme Court justice," according to the filing. 

Montgomery County police officers were dispatched to the location, where they found Roske. He was taken into custody without incident, and authorities seized his backpack and suitcase. Police found in his belongings a black tactical chest rig and tactical knife, a Glock 17 pistol with two magazines and ammunition, pepper spray, zip ties, a hammer, screwdriver, nail punch, crow bar, pistol light, duct tape, hiking boots with padding on the outside of the soles, and other items, the affidavit states.

After he was transported to the police department in Bethesda, Roske told a detective he was upset about the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion in a blockbuster abortion case and the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The Supreme Court is also set to issue a decision in the coming days and weeks in a case involving a New York law imposing limits on concealed carry of handguns in public.

"Roske indicated that he believed the Justice that he intended to kill would side with Second Amendment decisions that would loosen gun control laws," according to the affidavit. "Roske stated that he began thinking about how to give his life a purpose and decided that he would kill the Supreme Court Justice after finding the Justice's Montgomery County address on the Internet. Roske further indicated that he had purchased the Glock pistol and other items for the purpose of breaking into the Justice's residence and killing the Justice as well as himself."

Montgomery County police said the FBI are investigating the incident. The Washington Post was first to report on the arrest.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that President Biden condemned the actions targeting Kavanaugh "in strong terms."

"As the president has consistently made clear, public officials, including judges, must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety or that of their families, and any threats of violence or attempts to intimidate justices have no place in our society," she said.

Following the release last month of a draft Supreme Court opinion indicating a majority of the justices voted to overturn the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, the Supreme Court police reported a "significant increase in violent threats," including threats made on social media and directed at members of the court, according to an intelligence bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security.

Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the U.S. Marshals Service to provide additional support to the Marshal of the Supreme Court to ensure the safety of the justices amid the public backlash to the draft decision.

The draft decision, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the Supreme Court, sparked protests outside the high court — now surrounded by a large fence — and the homes of the court's conservative justices, including Kavanaugh. In response to the demonstrations, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to boost security for members of the court by allowing Supreme Court police to provide around-the-clock protection to justices and their families if such protection is deemed necessary.

The incident involving Kavanaugh invited calls from Senate Democrats and Republicans alike for the House to act swiftly on the bill.

"Protecting our judiciary and their staff and families is an important part of protecting our democracy," Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware who co-sponsored the measure, told reporters in response to the arrest near Kavanaugh's house.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas who is the other co-sponsor, said the arrest proves threats to the justices' lives are "horrifyingly real."

"Speaker Pelosi must keep the House in session until they pass my bill," he said in a statement. "Every day they don't the threat to the Justices grows, the potential for tragedy becomes more likely, and House Democrats achieve a new apex of political dysfunction."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, called it "timely and important" for the House to send the measure to President Biden's desk.

"Violence is never acceptable," he said, noting he welcomes changes changes or additions to the proposal.

Jack Turman and Gillian Morley contributed to this report.

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