January 2024 TorchStone Global Monthly Executive Protection Report
TorchStone Global believes that broader situational awareness and intelligence are key to providing quality executive protection—whether the principal is a Fortune 500 CEO, international celebrity, or local city council member. With that in mind, we are launching our monthly executive protection report, cataloging incidents we have captured through our open-source searches that are relevant to the practice of executive protection. We hope the report will serve as a centralized source of threat activity to provide insight into current trends in threats to high-profile individuals.
For more information on customized threat tracking for at-risk individuals, threat assessments, executive protection, or other security services, please contact us.
The TorchStone Executive Protection Report tracked 34 domestic and 12 international security incidents or updates to prior incidents impacting high-profile individuals during the month of January 2024. Below are some key incidents of note over the past month.
- There were at least six more cases of swatting attacks targeting lawmakers, judges, and candidates at all levels and both parties throughout the United States over the month of January. While this is a decline from the 15 swatting attacks reported in the December report, it shows that the tactic is still a threat to lawmakers and still wasting law enforcement resources. The continued swatting trend made harassment the most common type of incident in January (12 incidents).
- January saw the highest number of attacks against businesspersons since TorchStone started the Monthly EP report in May 2023. There were six total incidents affecting business leaders, including the express kidnapping of a music industry executive in Nashville, threats against Elon Musk from a Minnesota man who drove all the way to Texas to confront him at a Tesla facility, and a Russian-backed cyber-attack against Microsoft seeking executives’ details. There are no apparent connections between the incidents, but they do highlight the diverse range of threats facing business leaders and their EP teams.
- There were two attacks against South Korean lawmakers in January, including a stabbing attack against the main opposition leader. The suspect in that case indicated that his motive was to prevent the leader from nominating candidates ahead of the April 10 National Assembly elections. The attacks show how, even in relatively low-crime countries like South Korea, elections can increase emotions and tensions in dangerous ways.
DOMESTIC U.S. INCIDENTS
January 16, 2024: A man who was convicted of threatening Arizona lawmaker Rep. Mark Finchem in July 2022 has been sentenced to probation and anger management treatment. The individual made the threat directed at Mr. Finchem via phone stating he was going to “walk up behind Finchem and cut his throat at a supermarket.” The man was officially found guilty of issuing a misdemeanor threat and intimidation.
January 24, 2024: A Phoenix resident was arrested for making online threats against President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The man allegedly threatened to murder President Biden and Vice President Harris on social media on two separate occasions in November and December of 2023 respectively stating, “#joeAndKamala I’m asking you to resign on Monday your alternative is death brutally murdered.” The man is facing five counts of Threats Against the President and Successors to the Presidency and five counts of Interstate Communications of Threats. The man faces up to a maximum of 50 years in prison.
January 10, 2024: Police are investigating death threats made against Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley. The person left a voicemail at Santa Cruz City Hall where they voiced their opposition to a recent City Council vote that failed to call for a cease-fire resolution between Israel and Hamas. The City Council hearing took 10 hours in total and several pro-Palestinian activists “charged the dais…threw objects at [City Council], assaulting a battering a police officer and shouting threats.” The person who left the death threat stated, “Your life’s going to be miserable from now on. You went against the cease-fire. … You are going to die, you are going to die. You are going to die.”
January 12, 2024: According to police reports, a 52-year-old male stalker allegedly made another unwanted visit to Miley Cyrus’ Malibu residence. In September, she obtained a restraining order from L.A. County. In October, the alleged stalker, documented in court records, tried to enter her Malibu home near the front gate, resulting in his LAPD arrest. Ms. Cyrus accused the alleged stalker of harassing her with obsessive letters since 2018, asking her for money and making sexually explicit comments to her. Since 2022, the individual has also made numerous unwelcome visits to her Malibu home.
January 12, 2024: A man who has stalked pop star Ariana Grande since 2021, including 92 reported attempts to enter her Los Angeles home, was sentenced to 3 years 8 months in prison. During one of the man’s attempts to contact Ms. Grande at her home, he came armed with a knife and threatened the singer and her security team stating, “I’ll f***ing kill you and her.” Ms. Grande had previously been granted a five-year restraining order against the stalker in 2021, which has been extended to a 10-year restraining order. The individual pleaded guilty to all charges of stalking, residential burglary, and criminal threats against Ms. Grande.
January 14, 2024: Law enforcement is investigating a burglary at the West Hollywood residence of actress Lena Waithe. LAPD responded to a burglary incident and indicated the intruders entered the house by breaking a window while Ms. Waithe was out of town. According to police, the suspects stole approximately $200,000 in jewelry and other items before fleeing the property.
January 18, 2024: A San Jose resident has been arrested in connection to an explosive device found near the home of San Jose Councilwoman Dev Davis in 2022. The device was not detonated but police said that it would have created a dangerous explosion had it been set off. Law enforcement found a manual for making improvised explosives at the man’s home. Police are still investigating for a potential motive for the crime.
January 22, 2024: Law enforcement is investigating a burglary at the residence of Lee Byung-Hun in Los Angeles near Universal Studios during the week of January 22. LAPD responded to a burglary incident and indicated the intruders entered the home by breaking a sliding glass door while Mr. Byung-Hun was out of town. According to police, it is unclear what the suspects stole before fleeing the property.
January 3, 2024: A Florida resident was arrested for issuing threats to murder Rep. Eric Swalwell and members of his family. The individual allegedly left five threatening voicemails at Mr. Swalwell’s Washington D.C. office on December 19, including threats to “come after you and kill you…come and kill your children.” The person also referred to allegations that Mr. Swalwell had ties to suspected Chinese spy Christine Fang. The individual had previously been found guilty of making threats in 2019. The person has been released on bail and is awaiting arraignment.
January 8, 2024: Police arrested a Texas man for reportedly stalking pop star Shakira, following concerning social media posts. Shakira’s security became aware of the alleged stalker through social media posts and unwanted gift deliveries to her home from late December 2023 to January 2024, according to the arrest report. The suspect falsely claimed that he was married to the pop star and that they had a family together. Police were notified after the security team found a social media post indicating the suspected stalker’s presence in Florida and intention to visit Shakira’s residence in Miami Beach, leading to the arrest.
January 30,2024: State Representative Esther Panitch (D-Sandy Springs) received a threatening letter delivered to her home, which she reported to police. The threatening note arrived the day before Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a new antisemitism bill that Representative Panitch sponsored. Panitch is the only Jewish member of Georgia’s legislature. Opponents of the bill claim that it will be used to censor Palestine supporters and criminalize criticism of Israel. She did not reveal the specific content of the threatening correspondence.
January 8, 2024: President of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Tracy Kasper announced her immediate resignation due to a blackmail attempt made by an anonymous caller. Ms. Kasper stated that she was contacted by an unknown individual who threatened to “disclose a past personal matter unless she compromised her position at NAR.” Ms. Kasper reported the incident to law enforcement and submitted her resignation as President of NAR immediately after the blackmail attempt. Law enforcement officials are actively investigating the incident, but no arrests or suspects have been announced at the time of this writing.
January 23, 2024: A man has been arrested for threatening Centralia Mayor Bryan Kuder. The threat was made via email to a city councilman and stated that unless the man heard back from Mayor Kuder regarding a previous communication he would “make sure he was not at the Centralia City Council meeting.” The man has a history of issuing threats, previously issuing a verbal threat directed at a local power company’s employee for attempting to take a meter reading at the man’s home. The man is currently in jail awaiting his arraignment hearing.
January 11, 2024: A Howard County man was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty last year to threatening Virginia and Maryland state lawmakers and an LGBT advocacy group. After his release from prison, he will serve three years of supervised release. Threats were made to the Human Rights Campaign, former Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, and Maryland State Delegate Nick Allen from March 2022 to March 2023, in relation to their pro-LGBT policies. Threats included death threats and allegations that the lawmakers were terrorists, these threats were sent through voicemail, email, and Facebook messaging.
January 17, 2024: An unidentified man vandalized Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno’s vehicle, parked at City Hall, by slashing all four tires. Mayor Sarno is conducting a security evaluation at all city public offices after the suspect had visited the mayor’s office twice this week appearing very agitated and threatening when demanding to see the mayor. The suspect was later apprehended on January 19 by Springfield police who said the suspect also allegedly threw a rock through City Hall door windows on Christmas and allegedly broke into a home the day before slashing the mayor’s tires. The suspect is now being held without bail.
January 27, 2024: Police responded to a swatting incident targeting U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer’s home in Delano. Law enforcement officials received a 911 call reporting a “possible homicide/hostage situation” at Mr. Emmer’s residence but determined the report to be unfounded after searching the home. Mr. Emmer said that he and his family were not at home at the time of the incident. The U.S. Capitol police have opened an investigation into the swatting incident.
January 19, 2024: A Mississippi resident has been sentenced to 20 months in prison and a subsequent three years of supervised release for threatening to kill U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Percy. The individual had been convicted of sending two threatening emails to Judge Percy in July 2023 which stated that they wanted to meet the judge in public and “just end you and the problems you (expletive) cause!” The individual has a history of issuing threats including sending threatening letters to Child Protective Services and the Tippah County Sheriff’s Office.
January 7, 2024: Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was the victim of a swatting attack at his home in Jefferson City. Police received a false anonymous emergency call claiming that Mr. Ashcroft had shot and killed his wife prompting them to respond at his residence. Police verified it was a false claim and no injuries were sustained. Mr. Ashcroft’s family was at home at the time of the incident.
January 4, 2024: A man is facing additional charges for leaping over the judge’s bench in a Las Vegas courtroom and assaulting the judge, a U.S. marshal, and a law clerk. The man, who appeared in court as a defendant in an attempted battery case, leapt at Judge Mary Kay Holthus as she was about to sentence him. His actions injured three people before law enforcement and courtroom staff were able to subdue him. The individual is now facing counts of battery on a protected person, battery of an officer, battery by a prisoner, intimidating a public officer, and extortion.
January 20, 2024: A woman sent multiple threatening emails to the Luna County District Attorney’s Office and New Mexico State Courts system suggesting that she was building an explosive device and other weapons intended to be used against them. The woman has an extensive history of making outrageous claims to and threatening federal law enforcement officers.
January 11, 2024: Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over Donald Trump’s civil fraud case in New York, received a bomb threat at his home. The threat was reported hours before the closing arguments in the trial were slated to take place. A bomb squad arrived at the home and investigated but found no explosive devices. It is unclear if Judge Engoron was at home at the time.
January 17, 2024: A Yonkers man who was arrested for issuing threatening interstate communications in March 2023 has been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. The man made numerous threatening social media posts stating his intention to murder Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and local police officers. The man stated his support for ISIS in those social media posts. A court-ordered psychological evaluation determined he is unfit to stand trial and he will be hospitalized at a treatment facility for up to four months.
January 20, 2024: NYPD responded to reports of a disorderly individual outside Taylor Swift’s Manhattan apartment. Witnesses had observed the individual surveying the neighborhood at least 30 times in the past two months. Upon questioning, the suspected stalker, who appeared before Christmas, stated he wanted to see Taylor. The individual was arrested, made a court appearance where he was arraigned on stalling and harassment charges and given supervised release. The man continued to stalk Ms. Swift, leading to multiple additional arrests in the following days.
January 12, 2024: A group of self-described anarchists intentionally set fire to a car parked in front of Portland City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez’s home. The anarchist group claimed responsibility for the arson on a local blog and called it an “act of community self-defense.” No injuries were reported from the arson attack, and police are investigating the incident. Mr. Gonzalez has been a repeated target of far-left activists due to his center-right political stances; in 2022, his campaign headquarters was vandalized by activists opposed to his law-and-order-centered campaign strategy.
January 16, 2024: Climate activists held a demonstration outside of the home of Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley. The group, Earth Quaker Action Team, is a nonprofit that is committed to environmental conservation and is opposed to Vanguard’s investment in fossil fuels. The demonstration had roughly ten participants, and no injuries or arrests were reported. Demonstrators reportedly stayed on the roadways and did not cross Mr. Buckley’s property line.
January 27, 2024: Law enforcement officials responded to a swatting incident at the home of Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley in December 2023. The incident, previously unreported, resulted when an anonymous caller stated that they had shot their wife and were going to shoot themselves at Ms. Haley’s home address in Kiawah Island. Ms. Haley and her family were not at home at the time of the incident.
January 23, 2024: Nashville Metro Police are investigating the express kidnapping of a female music executive. The woman was leaving the SoHo House at around 8 pm when two armed men approached her. The suspects forced the woman into their SUV and demanded her cell phone, which had her wallet attached, and used the phone’s GPS to find banks in the area. Once arriving at the ATM, the suspects forced her to withdraw, but since she only had credit cards the withdrawal was unsuccessful. Suspects then had the woman contact a friend for money but fled before the arranged meeting when they saw police. The woman was ultimately unharmed in the incident but lost her phone and wallet to the assailants.
January 1, 2024: A swatting incident targeting the McKinney home of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and State Senator Angela Paxton was determined to be false. An unidentified caller made a 911 call to the McKinney police claiming that there was a life-threatening situation at the Paxton residence. The family was not home at the time of the incident. An active investigation into the fake 911 call is being headed by the Texas Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement.
January 17, 2024: Special Agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested a man after he made threats against Texas State Representative and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) on multiple social media platforms. The man is being charged with one felony count of Terroristic Threats and being held on a $500,000 bond.
January 28, 2024: A Minnesota resident was arrested in Texas after allegedly threatening to kill President Joe Biden and Elon Musk. The man is an employee of Tesla, one of Mr. Musk’s companies, and reportedly told his wife that he was “going to Texas and never coming back.” The man also left his cellphone in an effort to make it more difficult to locate him. Austin police stopped the man, and he told them that he was planning to go to the Tesla Gigafactory to attempt to contact Musk. Law enforcement officials reported the Tesla Gigafactory received a terroristic threat call a day before the man’s arrest, but it is still unclear who made the threat towards the factory.
January 12, 2024: Microsoft announced that it was the victim of a “password spray attack” by the Russian-backed hacking group Nobelium. The group was able to access corporate email accounts in late November 2023, including those of senior leaders within the company, and the breach wasn’t detected until January 12, 2024. Microsoft stated that the motive for the attack appeared to be to gather information that Microsoft had on the hacking group’s operations. Microsoft stated that there is no evidence that Nobelium gained access to customer information.
January 23, 2024: Former Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward was reportedly stalked and harassed by a local resident during her time as mayor from 2020-2023. The man sent numerous threatening emails to Ms. Woodward including threats to kidnap her, destroy her husband’s business, and claim he was outside of her home. The man was convicted of harassing Ms. Woodward in 2022 and was issued a no-contact order while completing mental health treatment. The individual was arrested for violating the no-contact order in November 2023 when he approached Ms. Woodward at a local tree lighting ceremony and was sentenced to 131 days in jail. The man has a history of violent threats, he threatened to commit a mass shooting at his former place of employment after being terminated for harassment of a female co-worker.
Washington, District of Columbia
January 7, 2024: Metro D.C. police determined that an emergency call was a swatting incident targeting the home of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s election interference case.
January 15, 2024: Emergency personnel responded to the White House as a false call reported there was a fire and a person trapped inside. The incident was determined to be a swatting attempt and was traced back to a false number. The President was at Camp David when the incident occurred, and nobody was injured.
January 23, 2024: Police arrested a local man after he attacked Edmonton City Hall with a rifle and an incendiary device. The man entered city hall through a parking lot, then proceeded through city hall, firing multiple shots that shattered glass within the building. In addition to the rifle, the suspect was heavily armed with several homemade incendiary devices, causing one small fire near an elevator. The motive of the attack is unknown.
January 4, 2024: Executives from the Bisleri Company were attacked by four unknown persons armed with iron rods and pipes while returning to work after having lunch at a hotel in Andheri. Andheri police suspect the attackers may be from the company’s union and that there could be some internal matters that led to the attack.
January 25, 2024: An Israeli TikTok influencer was robbed in his apartment by thieves dressed as food deliverymen, holding him at gunpoint and handcuffing him. The influencer, Yoni Cohen, insisted he had no cash on hand, but suspects still searched the apartment for two hours before giving up. The suspects then took the keys to Cohen’s luxury car before leaving. While making their escape a police officer attempted to stop them. This confrontation resulted in the suspects attempting to run over the officer, who responded by drawing his gun and firing, critically wounding the driver.
January 8, 2024: The Kenyan government has announced that all private security personnel, including EP agents, will be required to undergo a mandatory security vetting, registration, and licensing process. CEO of the Private Security Regulatory Authority stated that the nationwide program will also include training. The announcement happened days after a clash between Kenyan police and security personal at the Kettle House Bar and Grill in Nairobi which left seven injured including 3 police officers.
January 9, 2015: The EP agent who killed his principal and two others in December 2016 has been ordered to a mental hospital after being declared insane by an appellate court. The man, who had begun experiencing psychosis in mid-2015, claims he had a psychotic episode during the killing, hearing voices and seeing a dark figure beside him. The man was originally sentenced to death for the three murders in 2020 but has been acquitted due to “His behavior during the incident on Dec 1, 2016, clearly indicates that he was insane and unaware of his actions.”
January 2, 2024: South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck during a trip to Busan. The assailant attended a news conference that Mr. Lee hosted at the port of Busan. The assailant approached the politician and asked for an autograph before stabbing him. The assailant’s motive was to prevent Mr. Lee from nominating candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election. Mr. Lee was released from the hospital on January 10, 2024. The attacker has been indicted on charges of attempted murder and violation of fair election practices.
January 10, 2024: The stalker who repeatedly visited the home of celebrity couple Kim Tae-hee and Rain has been sentenced to six months in prison and 40 hours of treatment for stalkers. The stalker targeted the couple several times at their residence between 2021 and 2022. While no damage or injuries resulted from the numerous attempts to contact the celebrity couple, the court reportedly believed a prison sentence was necessary due to the “likelihood of committing the same crime again.”
January 14, 2024: K-pop group RIIZE was swarmed by fans at Incheon International Airport as the band was preparing to leave for Paris. Fans were seen pushing the group’s bodyguards in an attempt to photograph or get autographs from the group’s members. No injuries resulted from the incident and no arrests were reported.
January 18, 2024: The individual accused of stalking singer-actress Jung Eunji has been given a one-year prison sentence. Between 2020 and 2021 the individual messaged the celebrity numerous times, waited for her outside of her home, and followed her on a motorcycle. The individual was warned by police to cease contact with Jung in 2021 but they continued to message Jung through DearU, a private chat service which South Korean celebrities used to communicate with fans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The constant harassment led Jung to stop using DearU. The stalker will also pay a fine of 100,000 won, complete 120 hours of community service, and attend a lecture program about stalking in addition to the one-year prison sentence.
January 26, 2024: South Korean lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin was assaulted with a rock in the Gangnam district of Seoul. The attacker reportedly confirmed the lawmaker’s identity asking, “Are you lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin?” before striking her several times on the head. The injuries sustained from the attack were not life-threatening. The attacker is believed to be a minor and no additional details have been released regarding the assailant’s identity or a potential motive behind the attack.
January 3, 2024: A bodyguard working for Pastor Aloysius Bujingo was killed by gunmen attempting to kill Mr. Bujingo. The assailants approached Mr. Bujingo’s vehicle on motorcycle and opened fire at the car before escaping the scene. Pastor Bujingo sustained only minor injuries during the attack. Police are investigating the murder attempt but have not made any arrests in connection with the attack.
January 24, 2024: Former home secretary Priti Patel was confronted by climate activists outside an event on policing protests where she was slated to speak. Members of the Fossil Free London activist group targeted Ms. Patel over her past support for the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill which would maximize oil and gas production in the North Sea. Before she left her position as home secretary in 2022, Ms. Patel had pledged to crack down on eco-protesters.