June 2023 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 movie star, 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.
During its second month, the TorchStone Executive Protection Report tracked 36 domestic and 11 international security incidents or updates to prior incidents impacting high-profile individuals. Notable trends over the past month include an apparently coordinated mail-based threat campaign, fans throwing dangerous objects during concerts, and physically confrontational protests against Israeli politicians in Israel and abroad.
Over the past month, an unknown sender (or senders) has mailed approximately 100 envelopes containing suspicious white powder to state lawmakers in Montana, Tennessee, and Kansas. Reports suggest that Republican state lawmakers are the predominant target. Investigations have proven the powder to be harmless, but the letters have nevertheless proven disruptive. There are no reports of arrests or that authorities have identified the sender (or the motive) of the letters as of July 2.
Concertgoers have posed a threat to musical performers this month: in New York, Bebe Rexha had to get stitches after a fan struck her in the face with a cell phone and singer Kelsea Ballerini had to briefly leave the stage to recover after a fan threw a bracelet at her. In Nashville, Taylor Swift’s security team recognized a threatening person near the stage during one of her concerts and escorted him out of the venue.
Finally, ongoing protests against the Israeli government over proposed judicial reform are spilling over internationally. In addition to protest actions physically targeting members of the government in Israel, Economy Minister Nir Barkat grappled with a protester who broke through his security during a visit to Boston, MA. Future events involving members of the Israeli government are likely to attract additional protest actions over the coming months.
DOMESTIC U.S. INCIDENTS
June 27, 2023: The Supreme Court has overturned the stalking conviction of Billy Counterman on First Amendment grounds, claiming that prosecutors must demonstrate the defendant’s harmful intent. This precedent is expected to increase the threshold for courts to prove that person poses a “true threat” through verbal or written communication. Justice Elena Kagan writing for the 7-2 majority said, “The state must show that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening violence.” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, concerned about the precedent this decision sets stated, “Stalkers are often oblivious to reality” and if the state is required to show an understanding that their words were perceived as threatening, “you could let a lot of stalkers go.”
• 2017: Counterman was convicted of stalking musician Coles Whalen, sending the artist thousands of messages via Facebook between 2014-2016. Whalen stated that the messages were “unstable,” and “were life-threatening and life-altering.”
• July 4, 2022: Donald Brown was charged with sending threatening emails to the Trumped Store in Show Low where Sen. Rodgers was attending an Independence Day event on July 4, 2022. The email stated, “Wendy Rodgers is going to f****** die,” and “We are going to walk in your…joke of a store and start shooting.” Brown says that he made the threats due to political differences and had no intent on acting upon his threats.
June 11, 2023: A judge sentenced Theodore Howell to 20 years in prison for threatening the lives of Arkansas’s Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren and probation officer Nathan Jeffrey. Howell made the threats via text stating he planned to kill judge Karren when he was walking to court and threatened to kill Jeffrey at the probation office. After initially denying his involvement Howell admitted to making the threats to detectives and said he had never planned to follow through on the threats.
June 10, 2023: Protesters vandalized San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s home with spray-painted graffiti over her stance on the April 27 killing of Banko Brown. The graffiti messages included expletive language directed towards Breed and District Attorney Brook Jenkins including “Get a life London yr a killer” and “F— Brooke Jenkins.” The district attorney’s decision not to press charges against Brown’s killer has led to multiple demonstrations in late April and throughout May.
• April 27, 2023: A security guard confronted Banko Brown for leaving a Walgreens with unpaid merchandise. A fight ensued and the guard eventually shot and killed Brown. Activists are angry at city officials for not charging the security guard for the use of lethal violence.
June 13, 2023: Fresno City College was briefly placed on lockdown after instructor Richard Fine reportedly was threatening violence against one of the college’s Deans and their family. Fine who was placed in police custody shortly after the incident was reported, also allegedly threatened violence against all students at the school. The police report states “Richard Fine began calling and texting an FCC Dean threatening violence against them and their family…Mr. Fine also allegedly threatened violence against all students at FCC.” Fine was held by police for a subsequent mental evaluation.
June 19, 2023: LA County Sheriff’s deputies arrested an individual for trespassing at Pierce Brosnan’s Malibu guest home. The man never gained access to the house instead using the outdoor shower briefly before staff escorted him off the property. The LA County Sheriff’s Office report stated that the suspect entered a neighboring property’s laundry room and used their water before trespassing on Mr. Brosnan’s property.
June 20, 2023: A fan rushed the stage and slapped singer Ava Max during a concert in Los Angeles. Witness accounts state the man rushed the stage after the end of the last song attempting to touch the singer before security detained him. The artist later tweeted that the fan had scratched her eye.
June 24, 2023: Golfer Paige Spiranac has filed a restraining order against Los Angeles resident Eric Fuhs whom she claims has followed her to tournaments. Fuhs reportedly followed the golfer to a tournament in South Lake Tahoe where he asked for a picture with her and accused her of scamming him out of $10,000 while acting in a “hostile manner.” Fuhs has been ordered to stay 100 yards away from Spiranac, her home and workplace. Fuhs already has a restraining order against him through May 2024 for previously stalking actress Olivia Wilde.
June 25, 2023: Former director of JP Morgan and General Dynamics and heir to the Crown family fortune, James Crown, died in a motorsports accident on June 25 when his vehicle crashed into a barrier at a private motorsports club near Aspen. The Pitkin County coroner’s office is describing the death as an accident pending further investigation. It is unclear what vehicle he was driving at the time.
June 1, 2023: Garrett Santillo of Hamden pleaded guilty to mailing more than 100 threatening letters to journalists, judges, and other public officials and is currently awaiting sentencing. The threats were directed towards individuals in Connecticut and throughout the country including a justice of the United States Supreme Court. Most of the letter contained this or similar language to “If you don’t obey what this letter says, you along with others and people in Washington DC and everywhere and you. You all will be killed!!”
• 2021: Santillo completed his most recent term of federal supervision after three prior convictions linked to mailing threatening letters.
June 28, 2023: New Britain resident Andrey Desmond has been arrested for physically assaulting State Rep. Maryam Khan after attending Eid al-Adha services with her family. Desmond began making unwanted advances and attempted to prevent Khan from leaving the area and assaulted her, leaving her with minor injuries. Desmond is facing charges of assault, unlawful restraint, breach of peace, and interfering with police. The attack prompted a condemnation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations which urged law enforcement “to ensure the safety of the…Muslim community during the ongoing Eid al-Adha celebrations.”
June 28, 2023: Curtis Brown of Indian River has been sentenced to an additional 15 months in federal prison for threatening to kill a federal judge and his family. Brown mailed a letter to the judge’s chambers threatening to hire someone to shoot the judge or his family. Brown had filed a motion for preliminary injunction and a civil rights complaint about his confinement in 2021 which the judge dismissed. Brown mailed the death threat a week later. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence for drug charges.
June 28, 2023: Country singer Kelsea Ballerini had to briefly leave the stage and seek help after a concert-goer threw a bracelet and hit her in the face while performing at ExtraMile Arena in Boise. The artist wasn’t injured and stated, “it more so just scared me than hurt me.” There were no arrests.
June 7, 2023: Will County Sherriff’s Department arrested Saad Noah for leaving a death threat on the voicemail of County Judge Sarah Jones. Jones was the judge in two cases filed against Noah that were later dismissed including an eavesdropping case in 2014 where Noah was found unfit to stand trial. Noah is also under investigation for allegations that he made threats against other Will County judges, an assistant public defender and State’s attorney James Glasgow. Noah faces charges of threatening a public official, harassment by telephone, and intimidation.
June 2, 2023: Police arrested Fort Wayne resident Aaron Thompson for leaving multiple threatening voicemails on U.S. Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN) phone. Thompson told police that he made the calls because of political disagreements and was intoxicated. Authorities have charged Thompson with intimidation with a threat to commit a forcible felony and harassment by means of a telephone call. Over the course of several voicemails left on Congressman Banks’ phone in April, Thompson made multiple threats, including, “Here’s the choice. Your daughters grow up without their dad. Or you grow old without your daughters. How you like that? Let me know what your opinion is. I’ll make the decision.” Thompson also confirmed that he owned a firearm.
June 6, 2023: Bartholomew County Judge Kelly Benjamin and Superior Court 1 Judge James Worton are seeking armed security for their courtrooms following a series of threats and on-site incidents. The county announced it is hiring three additional security officers not to exceed a maximum cost of $416,613 per year. The courthouse was placed on lockdown on April 19, 2023, because of a shooting threat made against Judge Benjamin. Threats were also made against Benjamin’s husband and children all related to a decision the judge made in a family law case earlier in the year. Judge Worton also received a threat on his life that resulted in criminal charges being filed and a no-contact order being issued.
June 20, 2023: State and federal authorities are investigating the approximately 100 letters containing a white power that have been received by Kansas state legislators and public officials. No injuries have been reported and preliminary tests on a small sample of the letters have come back negative for “common biological agents of concern” according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI). The KBI has not released information on the motives behind the letters. Suspicious letters targeting multiple state lawmakers have been reported this month in Tennessee and Montana as well.
June 9, 2023: Security for Israel’s Economy Minister Nir Barkat grappled with a protester who rushed past security and approached the minister as he was leaving his hotel in Boston. The encounter caused injuries to the protester that forced him to be hospitalized. No charges have been filed against the protester or security detail. The protester was part of a larger group of anti-government protesters that were heard shouting “Shame” at the Barkat. The minister has faced several anti-government protests since arriving in the US which has led to the cancellation of several planned events. Barkat is not the only Israeli official being targeted when traveling abroad with Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, lawmaker Simcha Rothman, Finance Minster Bezakek Smotrich, and Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis all being targeted by anti-government protesters in recent months.
June 7, 2023: Shawn Michael Fix has pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist act and has agreed to testify against his co-conspirators in his connection with the failed plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. Fix was second-in-command in a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen that was headed by Adam Fox, one of the ringleaders of the planned kidnapping. Fix and the other members are anti-government extremists that were angered by the governor’s COVID-19 policies. This is the ninth conviction in state and federal court related to the kidnapping scheme.
June 26, 2023: Montana state Republican lawmakers reported receiving a fourth suspicious letter containing white powder that investigators later determined to be non-hazardous. Representative Sue Vinton (R-Billings) turned the letter she received over to the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s office who deemed it safe. House Speaker Matt Reiger (R-Kalispel), Rep. Neil Duram (R-Eureka), and Rep. Rhonda Knudsen (R-Culbertson) have all received similar letters in the preceding days and weeks. Law enforcement has instructed all Montana legislators to not open any suspicious mail and immediately report it to local authorities.
June 2, 2023: Federal prosecutors charged Franklin resident Brian Landry for leaving a voicemail threatening to assault, kidnap, and murder U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). Landry admitted to making the threat because he was upset with Sen. Tuberville for blocking military promotions. Landry stated the following in a voicemail left at the senator’s office on May 17, “Hey stupid I’m a veteran sniper. And unless you change your ways, I got my scope pointed in your direction and I’m coming to get you. You’re a dead man walking you piece of f—— s—.”
June 8, 2023: BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and President Robert Kapito will receive individualized security programs paid for by the investment firm. Both executives received upgraded home security systems and executive protection agents. BlackRock’s board of directors now requires Fink and Kapito to use private airplanes for business and personal travel in addition to providing ground transportation services. BlackRock and both executives have been the target of environmental protest groups over the companies’ ESG policies and investments in fossil fuels.
June 18, 2023: Security escorted pop star Bebe Rexha off stage mid-performance after a fan struck her in the head with a cellphone. Security identified the fan who threw the phone and escorted him out of the venue. NYPD arrested and charged Nicolas Malvagna with third-degree assault and second-degree harassment. Fans throwing their phones on stage toward performing artists has become a growing trend in recent years and has resulted in several artist injuries while performing.
June 5, 2023: Two Cleveland Browns players, Greg Newsome II and Perrion Winfrey were robbed by six masked men while leaving a Cleveland night club in the early morning. The individuals stole the players’ jewelry and fled in Newsome’s truck. Police have located the stolen vehicle but have not made any arrests related to the robbery. Additionally, a different Browns player Demetric Felton had his car stolen the morning of June 4th.
• May 2, 2023: A visiting judge has upheld the temporary restraining order against Struthers Municipal Judge Dominic Leone, who is accused of making threats towards Struthers Mayor Cat Cercone Miller during the May 2 primary election. Witnesses accused the judge of being “mentally unstable,” “erratic,” calling the mayor a “fat bitch,” and threatening to “get rowdy” with her.
June 2, 2023: Noble resident Alan Mullins was arrested on four counts of threatening an act of violence against a local judge and others. Mullins posted a threatening video to social media blaming the judge for “taking my kids away from me” in a child custody case that was decided earlier this year. Mullins also directly threatened the man dating the mother of his children in the video stating “If their daddy goes to (expletive) prison for kicking you’re a** or killing your dumb stupid a**, they gonna know that they can stand up,” and “You’re a sorry piece of s***, and so is Judge Puckett out of Cleveland County, that b**** deserves anything coming to her too…deuces.”
June 5, 2023: Police are investigating threats against Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch and City Councilor Clifford Evelyn after the mayor found a dead raccoon and a sign with “intimidating language” naming both men outside his office. Police did not release the content of the sign, but the mayor indicated that it was “racially hateful.” Raccoon imagery has long been associated with anti-Black pejoratives. Mayor Fitch commented on the incident, “It seems there’s some people in town that can’t accept the fact that [Councilor Evelyn] is Black and is on the City Council.” Councilor Evelyn became the first Black city council member in 2021.
June 1, 2023: Bristol police are investigating an assassination threat made against District Judge Kevin P. Wagner. The Bucks County District Courthouse was closed June 2 following a report that an armed man was heading to the courthouse and was targeting the judge. This followed a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of the same courthouse on May 30. Local officials have made no arrests in connection with the threats but are continuing to investigate.
June 14, 2023: Police arrested Porice Mincy after she shot Cameron County District Attorney Paul Malizia in the leg following an altercation. Malizia is expected to recover. Malizia told investigators that he had tried to physically remove her from his office after Mincy vandalized his office. Mincy was upset over a $1,000 deposit and a house deed that Malizia dealt with for her sister. Mincy is now facing multiple aggravated assault charges, reckless endangerment, firearm possession, carrying a firearm without a permit, and other lesser related charges.
June 2, 2023: Police arrested New York resident Mitchell Taebel for threatening violence against and stalking singer Taylor Swift. Taebel who insists Ms. Swift is his “soulmate” was booked on charges of harassment, stalking, intimidation and invasion of privacy. The harassment goes back to March 29, 2023 when Taebel stated he would “happily wear a bomb if he cannot be with his soul mate” via his Instagram. On May 5, Taebel traveled to Nashville and was able to gain access to the Ms. Swift’s apartment complex posing as a reporter before security escorted him out. On May 6, Taebel was able to get into Swift’s Nashville show and had positioned himself near the stage before her security team recognized him and removed him from the venue. Attorneys for Swift have been granted a temporary restraining order against Taebel in Nashville.
June 5, 2023: Nashville police arrested Chipley, FL resident Michael Curtis for criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and stalking a Nashville celebrity known as Jelly Roll. Curtis approached the singer outside of a celebrity softball game in an “alarming manner” which prompted security to rush the artist inside the stadium for safety. Curtis had recently targeted Jelly Roll by following a bus he believed the artist to be on and posting pictures on his social media next to Jelly Roll’s personal vehicle outside of a concert venue. Curtis made bail on June 6 and posted several videos to social media threatening the artist.
June 22, 2023: Police placed Tennessee’s legislative office building on lockdown due to an unknown powdery substance found in letters mailed to Tennessee state House Republicans. The letters contained politically motivated threats specifically targeting Republican leaders. The FBI is working with local law enforcement to determine how many letters were sent and the individual responsible for mailing the letters. No injuries were reported, and the building was re-opened after being placed on lockdown for roughly three hours. It is unclear if the incident is linked to similar letters mailed to Montana state lawmakers.
June 4, 2023: Military fighter jets intercepted an unresponsive Cessna Citation plane that flew through restricted airspace over Washington D.C., before crashing in southwest Virginia, killing three passengers and the pilot. The plane was bound for Long Island, NY from Tennessee carrying family members of Florida businessman and political donor, John Rumpel. The pilot of the private jet appears to have lost consciousness during the flight. F-16 jets intercepted the Cessna around 3:20 p.m. CDT and attempted to contact the plane but the pilot was found unresponsive. The F-16 jets were authorized to travel at supersonic speeds which resulted in a sonic boom heard by D.C. residents.
June 6, 2023: Protesters from the action group Climate Defiance interrupted Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) keynote speech during an event regarding the Mountain Valley pipeline. Sen. Manchin had just taken the stage when the protesters assembled on the stage and joined in chants of “Dirty deal, MVP, Jae Manchin you are killing me!” Protesters stayed non-violent and the Senator was escorted to a nearby boardroom to finish his interview. The Mountain Valley pipeline project was included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act which was signed June 5. Climate Defiance has targeted other high-profile Democrats over climate-related issues including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
June 29, 2023: Police arrested Seattle resident Taylor Taranto in former President Barack Obama’s DC neighborhood after claiming on social media that he had a detonator for an explosive. Taranto had an open warrant for his involvement in the January 6th US Capitol attack and has been charged with being a fugitive from justice. Police recovered firearms and materials to make explosives from Taranto’s vehicle. While no motive has been confirmed by law enforcement, social media accounts associated with Taranto recently posted a link to a website touting conspiracy theories about the Obama family.
June 12, 2023: Prosecutors charged West Allis resident Carter Smale for allegedly threatening a judge and law enforcement officer over a domestic violence case involving his ex-girlfriend. Witnesses state that following Smale’s first court hearing he began making threats that he would blow up the Waukesha County Courthouse with a homemade bomb and kill “the ***** who arrested him.” Officers searched Smale’s home and found no materials used to make explosives, but witnesses reported that Smale possessed zip-ties, rope, and duct tape – potentially for a kidnapping attempt. Smale has denied threatening the officer, judge, or the courthouse.
June 1, 2023: Toronto police arrested Junior Francois Lavagesse for threatening to shoot Toronto mayoral candidates ahead of debate scheduled at OCAD University. Organizers eventually canceled the debate after several mayoral candidates decided not to attend the debate due to threats. Police stated that the threats were not targeting a specific candidate describing it as a “blanket threat.” Prosecutors charged Lavagesse with carrying a concealed weapon, threatening violence, and possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes.
June 6, 2023: Two men accused of attacking French President Emanuel Macron’s wife’s great-nephew Jean-Baptiste Trongeux have been sentenced to 12 months and 15 months in jail respectively. The two men were participants in an anti-government protest in Amiens centered around pension reform. The men recognized Trongeux as he was returning to his apartment and attacked him leaving him with several broken ribs and a head injury.
June 12, 2023: The mayor of Carnac, Brittany is under police protection following death threats made towards him and his family. Activists are targeting Mayor Lepick over his decision to approve a construction planning permit that defenders claim would destroy historically significant Menhir Stones. The mayor argues that he complied fully with legislative requirements before approving the site and cited the “low archaeological value” of the stones in the proposed building area.
June 8, 2023: The climate activist group The Last Generation vandalized a private jet at an airport in Sylt, spray painting it orange and displaying signage directed at German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Environmental protest groups such as The Last Generation, Extinction Rebellion, and Greenpeace have increasingly targeted private aircraft and their owners in recent years due to criticism over carbon emissions.
• 2022: The Last Generation gained unauthorized access to Brandenburg Airport in Berlin and refused to move from the tarmac which led to a temporary closure of the airport.
June 20, 2023: Protesters in Holstein vandalized a luxury yacht at a local marina with orange spray paint. The climate activists then boarded the yacht and stuck themselves to the railing of the ship. Emergency services and local police dismantled the railing and apprehended the protest group. All eight protesters are facing property damage, water pollution, and trespassing charges.
June 11, 2023: Protesters spit on Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz during a public event in Tel Aviv. The protest was in response to the proposed judicial changes. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have protested over the proposed changes over the past six months. This follows a larger trend of Israeli officials being targeted by demonstrators domestically and internationally.
June 22, 2023: Former Japanese lawmaker Yoshikazu Higashitani was served an arrest warrant for online intimidation. He is suspected of intimidating Go Ayano and Kimio Fukutani on Instagram and the livestreaming platform TwitCasting allegedly stating, “Think how critically damaging it would be for a celebrity to come to a trial,” and, “Doing this will make it hard for your wife and children to lead their lives.” Higashitani rose to prominence posting videos about celebrity scandals on YouTube under the alias GaaSyy. He was stripped of his status as a lawmaker in March for not attending an Upper House session. A resident of the UAE, Higashitani was placed on an international wanted list in April and Japanese police arrested him in early June after returning to Japan.
June 13, 2023 Update: Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero will live at an army base in the city after receiving death threats. The mayor made the announcement after confirming the police had found seven dead bodies in a pickup truck on June 12 but did not clarify if the incident influenced her decision.
• May 17, 2023: An unidentified gunman targeted a member of Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero’s security team in an assassination attempt. One bullet struck the window of the guard’s car but did not injure him. The shooting took place before the mayor’s visit to a beauty salon, and the suspect’s SUV, recovered later, was found to contain three loaded firearms and bulletproof vests.
June 12, 2023: Comedian Ricky Gervais has increased his security ahead of his latest UK “Armageddon” tour in response to death threats. While no specifics have been released regarding the threats, Gervais has received public backlash in the past regarding jokes he has told targeting the LGBTQ+ community. His latest comedy special SuperNature was labeled anti-trans and GLAAD called the show “dangerous.”
June 20, 2023: A UK court sentenced social media influencer Orla Sloan to 12 weeks in prison and issued her a five-year restraining order for harassing and stalking three professional British football players. Sloan was formerly romantically involved with Mason Mount and repeatedly contacted him seeking clarification on their relationship. When she didn’t receive a response, she began to harass Mount creating fake social media accounts and changing her phone number over 20 times after being blocked. Ms. Sloan also repeatedly harassed Billy Gilmour and Ben Chilwell via social media using the same tactics to contact Mr. Mount. At her sentencing hearing Sloan admitted to the harassment of all three players stating she was upset at being ignored by Mount and had contacted Chilwell and Gilmour to get to Mount.
June 28, 2023: Three protesters invaded the pitch at the Lord’s Cricket Ground to protest oil & gas development projects during the first day of the Ashes cricket match between England and Australia. The three protesters wore “Just Stop Oil” shirts and spread orange powder on the field, disrupting play. One of England’s players physically picked up one of the protesters and carried him off the field. The three intruders face charges of aggravated trespass and public nuisance.