WASHINGTON — An armed man was arrested overnight near the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after he called 911 on himself, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Officials say the man, identified as Nicholas John Roske, 26, was armed with a handgun, a knife, pepper spray and burglary tools. He was stopped a block from the justice’s house. And when police detained him, he said he was there to kill Kavanaugh, the officials said.
Deputy U.S. marshals spotted Roske — dressed in black and carrying a backpack and a suitcase — getting out of a cab in front of Kavanaugh's house shortly after 1 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to a criminal complaint. Roske looked at the officers and then started walking down the street and called 911 on himself, the complaint said.
Officials said the man called 911 and said that he had homicidal thoughts, that he had traveled from California to attack the justice and that he had a gun in his suitcase. He said the gun was unloaded and in a locked case. Officials said the man is from Simi Valley.
He was still on the phone with 911 when police showed up to arrest him, the complaint said.
He is alleged to have told investigators that he'd decided to target Kavanaugh because he was angry about the possibility that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. He said he thought Kavanaugh would loosen gun laws. Roske said he'd planned to kill the justice and then himself, the complaint said.
A search of his backpack and suitcase showed he was carrying a "black tactical chest rig and tactical knife, a Glock 17 pistol with two magazine and ammunition, pepper spray, zip ties, a hammer, screwdriver, nail punch, crow bar, pistol light, duct tape" and other items.
Roske was charged in federal court in Maryland with attempting to murder a Supreme Court justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
In a brief court appearance Wednesday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Timothy Sullivan, Roske confirmed that he is a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Asked whether he was thinking clearly and understood what was happening, Roske replied: “I think I have a reasonable understanding, but I wouldn’t say I’m thinking clearly.”
Roske didn’t enter a plea. He was order detained pending his next court appearance on June 22.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that President Joe Biden "condemns the actions of this individual in the strongest terms and is grateful to law enforcement for quickly taking him into custody."
"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," she said. "And any violence, threats of violence or attempts to intimidate justices have no place in our society."
Roske's arrest was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Supreme Court confirmed some of the details in a brief statement Wednesday: “At approximately 1:50 a.m. today, a man was arrested near Justice Kavanaugh’s residence. The man was armed and made threats against Justice Kavanaugh. He was transported to Montgomery County Police 2nd District.”
Kavanaugh lives in suburban Chevy Chase, Maryland. His home was also the scene of protests after a draft of the court’s decision to apparently overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked last month.
Protesters chanted and held up signs in front of the homes of Kavanaugh, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the leaked majority draft opinion that could overturn the landmark ruling. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has called for protesters demonstrating in front of justices' homes to be arrested and prosecuted by the Justice Department, citing a federal law barring people from trying to intimidate or influence judges.
Some of Cotton's Republican colleagues have said doing so would violate the First Amendment, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said peaceful protests are “the American way.” Schumer added that people protest in front of his home in New York “three, four times a week.”
Asked by reporters last month whether she was concerned about the protests outside the justices' homes, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said any demonstrations should be peaceful. "Violence, threats and intimidation have no place in political discourse," Psaki said.
The protests spurred security concerns that prompted the Senate to pass a bill that would extend security protections to immediate family members of Supreme Court justices. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that he discussed the legislation with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., on Tuesday and that "I hope we're close" to taking up the legislation.
Heated emotions over the leaked draft also led Supreme Court officials to erect tall fencing around the courthouse as crowds gathered to protest on both sides of the abortion debate.