Detroit police have arrested at least four men over Facebook posts urging people to kill white cops in the wake of the Dallas massacre.
Law enforcement across the country has been on high alert since Micah Johnson, 25, shot dead five police officers and injured seven more at a Black Live Matter protest on Thursday.
Since then, counter-terrorism units have discovered a worrying number of individuals on social media praising the shooter as a ‘hero’ and calling for similar attacks on police officers.
Detroit officers have now arrested at least four suspects after discovering they had made threats against cops online, Detroit News reports.
One of suspects wrote: ‘All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. Kill all white cops.’
Another said: ‘It’s time to wage war and shoot the police first’, while a third said Johnson was his ‘hero’ and had ‘inspired me to do the exact same thing.’
One of the men arrested had posted pictures and videos of officers being shot on his Facebook wall and wrote: ‘This needs to happen more often,’ according to police.
Detroit Chief James Craig said in the wake of the Dallas mass shooting, he is taking the threats to his officers very seriously as he said his department is ‘in a higher state of alertness.’
Two of the four African-American men arrested have been released. The rest are in jail on unrelated, outstanding warrants, according to police.
Dorian Ruff, of Detroit Beach, Michigan, claimed that he was arrested, ‘in the middle of the night’ by armed officers on Saturday for his social media post.
It is not clear if he was one of the four men arrested for threatening the lives of Detroit cops.
In a Facebook post, that has since been deleted, he posted a picture of Johnson after the shooting with the caption ‘Definitely a black hero. #Dallasshooter Micah Johnson. Rest in Peace.’
Carlos Williams, a friend of Ruff wrote after the arrest that: ‘My friend Dorian Ruff was just ARRESTED AT HOME for this FACEBOOK POST. I guess it’s ok to have an opinion as long as it’s not against your oppressor. I think the recent events have reminded police, it’s waaaay more of us than it is of them!!!.. THEY ARE AFRAID!!!’
After his release from custody yesterday, Ruff said that he was ‘now aware my page is being monitored.’
‘I had no idea a Facebook post would lead to the police banging on the door surrounding the house with Assault Riffles Drawn in the middle of the night. Questions where thrown at me, intelligence were thrown right back,’ he said, adding, sarcastically, that he hoped that this post didn’t offend anyone.
Tensions between police and citizens have been simmering since the Dallas shootings where five officers were killed.
Johnson reportedly had a vendetta against white police after two black men were shot dead by cops last week, and told authorities ‘he wanted to kill white people–‘especially white officers’.
Since that attack, officers have been attacked and shot in at least three other cities; Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee. None of the shootings were fatal.
Counter terrorism units have also reported seeing support for the cop killer online.
In Louisiana, where protests have continued a week after the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police, Kemonte Gilmore allegedly post a video online showing sat with a gun in his vehicle behind a police car saying he wanted to shoot and kill an officer.
In Wisconsin, another suspect called for black men to gun down white officers on social media, while an Illinois woman threatened in an online video to kill any officer who pulled her over, police said.
‘Social media is new territory, and while it’s been established that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, we’re talking about people specifically saying on Facebook they want to kill white police officers,’ said Craig.
‘If someone threatens to kill the president, that person would be arrested and prosecuted. How is it any different when someone threatens to kill white cops?’
Craig believes that threats to murder police officers should not be protected by the First Amendment but said that it can often take a little while for the law to catch up with new technology and communications–such as social media.
Courts have previously stated that ‘true threats’ are not protected by Freedom of Speech but that definition open to interpretation.
But Craig insists that, at a time when police officers are being shot and killed, simply the act of writing that you want to kill a cop should be illegal.
‘When we arrested these guys, each one of them said, ‘I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.’ One of the threats was more vague, along the lines of ‘I wish more cops would be killed.’ Maybe you could argue that isn’t far enough.
‘But the others were specific: ‘Kill police officers.’ If that’s not a threat, what is?’
One of the suspects had said it was time to ‘wage war’ against police and even urged people to contact him for more information.
A Detroit Police Department spokesman would not confirm whether Ruff was among the four men arrested in Detroit for making threats against officers.
She added that two suspects were in custody on unrelated charges while two had been released. Warrants will be submitted to the prosecutor within the next couple of days.