A man has been arrested for allegedly threatening to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple over the city’s current mask mandate.
The Wichita Police Department charged Meredith Dowty, 59, with criminal threat on Friday after they ‘were alerted to threatening statements directed toward’ Whipple.
He was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail at 6.05pm with no bond amount listed, per booking documents.
According to The Kansas City Star, Whipple became aware of the threats after a detective contacted him and read a series of text messages sent from Dowty to another city official.
The messages requested Whipple’s home address and gave graphic detail about the potential danger.
‘He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman — me and everyone who, something about tyranny,’ Whipple told The Kansas City Star.
The reason for the alleged scheme, Whipple said, was ‘masks and tyranny.’
‘It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of COVID restrictions on elderly homes,’ he added.
In July, Whipple implemented a mask mandate that required coverings be worn by individuals in most public places to curb COVID-19 spread.
But it was unpopular with a portion of Wichita residents, including 120 people who attended a September council meeting and spoke for seven hours against the mask mandate.
Residents who spoke out mostly said they felt the mandate was impeding on their religious and constitutional rights.
Regardless, city officials voted to extend the mask mandate through October 21 or until health conditions improve.
Whipple told The Kansas City Star that he believed Dowty’s threats were valid and that security presence has increased around his home.
‘This wasn’t just some guy popping off on social media,’ he told the publication.
‘He contacted someone that knows where I live that apparently he thought would give him my address.’
The alleged threats against Whipple echoed those made against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by militiamen last week.
The 14 men charged are right-wing extremists who plotted to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in Michigan. They wanted to put her on trial for ‘treason’ in a safe house in Wisconsin, but had their plot foiled by the FBI.
The group’s anger sparked over the state’s mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions.
On Twitter, Whipple released a statement that called for unity.
‘Violence is never a way to settle disagreements. We’re always stronger together as a City even when times are at their toughest,’ wrote Whipple.
‘Tensions maybe high, but we will get through this together as Wichitans.
‘Chelsea, the boys, & I appreciate the kind thoughts & prayers. We also would like to thank the brave men & women of the Wichita Police who protect not just us, but our entire community. Thank you for the fast response in this matter & for all you do
According to The Kansas City Star, Dowty is a well-known musician in Wichita who performed under the stage name ‘Cathead.’ He plays the harmonica and guitar.
Dowty is reportedly a retired Wichita firefighter who was honored by the Wichita City Council for helping save a police officer shot on duty.
He was also a first responder during the 1998 DeBruce Grain Elevator explosion in the city, which killed seven people and injured 10 more.
The investigation is ongoing, and it will be presented to the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office.