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The 75-year-old Utah man who was shot dead by FBI agents on Wednesday morning for making online threats against President Joe Biden and other government officials was a pillar of his local church community and posed no real threat to anyone, a former neighbor and friend told The Daily Wire.
Tim Rich first heard of the incident through a neighborhood Facebook group, where households posted about hearing gunshots, and later that a SWAT team had raided the home of his friend, Craig Robertson. Rich immediately “had an inkling of what the nature” of the raid was — he was Facebook friends with Robertson and saw his political posts, which included one last week in which Robertson said he had to “dust off” his sniper rifle in preparation for Biden’s arrival in Utah for a political fundraiser.
Rich said he mostly ignored Robertson’s political rants. “I just dismissed it — he’s ranting again, voicing his frustrations,” Rich said. “I don’t even know how many friends he had on Facebook; I would imagine not many and that his posts weren’t going to many people.”
Robertson’s post about shooting Biden referenced his M24 sniper rifle. Other subjects of his Facebook threats included Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland. A post from September 2022 read “Death to Joe Biden.”
Rich says he was shocked when he learned the interaction ended with the death of his friend, and believes the choice law enforcement made to conduct an early morning raid led to the avoidable result.
Robertson was largely immobile — standing just about five feet six inches and weighing roughly 300 pounds — the elderly man would hobble around with a cane. He was known to drive to his church, which was only about 200 yards from his home. And law enforcement presumably knew all of these details — as Robertson had been under surveillance for months, and two agents had already interacted with him before the fatal Wednesday morning raid.
Rich believes that “busting in” to the home of a man that they knew had a defensive mindset was reckless.
“It seems like a much lower risk to detain or arrest in the middle of the day as he’s hobbling out of his vehicle or in a parking lot somewhere,” Rich said.
“If they were concerned his speech was going to turn into action, they could have waited to see if he was even going to leave his property that day,” Rich explained. “I’d bet my life Craig would have dropped an ill-advised post or two, and nothing else ever would have happened.”
“At worst, they had 45 miles between Craig and the president, more than enough time to get better information as to his intent — beyond just his online words — before taking such forceful action.”
The man Rich knew was not a violent political extremist, but a “kind person who looked out for others, was interested to share with them his hobbies and would throw in a joke or a chuckle with every conversation.” Robertson was a skilled woodworker, and would regularly gift items to friends in the community.
“Chairs for friends and rocking horses for their kids,” Rich recalled. “He always wanted to show my kids the stuff that he was working on. I was very comfortable around Craig and felt that he was somebody who cared about the people around him very much.”
Last Christmas, Robertson invited Rich to use his workshop to complete a gift he was working on for his wife. Robertson worked alongside him for hours building the thread spool holder, offering his expertise.
Other neighbors who knew Robertson echo Rich’s perceptions — one man described Rich as a “teddy bear” to the Deseret News.
Robertson’s family says he was a “kind and generous” person who never had any intention, or even ability, to carry out the sorts of threats voiced on social media.
“The Craig Robertson we knew was a kind and generous person who was always willing to assist another in need, even when advanced age, limited mobility, and other physical challenges made it more difficult and painful for him to do so,” the family said in a statement.
“As an elderly — and largely homebound — man, there was very little he could do but exercise his First Amendment right to free speech and voice his protest in what has become the public square of our age — the internet and social media,” the family said. “Though his statements were intemperate at times, he has never, and would never, commit any act of violence against another human being over a political or philosophical disagreement.”
The FBI has not released many details on the raid, though an unnamed law enforcement source told The New York Times that Robertson was armed. His family acknowledges that he was a “firearms enthusiast,” and references to his many guns were commonplace in his threatening Facebook posts.
In one 2022 post, Robertson said he had a “patriotic dream” about shooting California’s Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom with his “suppressed S&W M&P 9mm,” according to the Times.
Accounts from neighbors to the Deseret News indicate that agents used a battering ram to bust through Robertson’s door, and also entered his house through the windows. His dead body was left outside on the concrete, covered only by a blood-soaked white sheet, the neighbors said.
Rich says he remains in disbelief that it came to this.
“I just can’t get over the fact that two agents interacted with him peacefully in the parking lot, surveilled him long enough to know his mobility, and didn’t come to the conclusion that they could easily intercept him should he leave his house,” Rich said. “We enter dangerous territory when the words we say are equated with active, physical intent worthy of deadly force.”