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Police patrols around Rep. Andrew Garbarino's office stepped up after death threat, commissioner says

Police patrols around Rep. Andrew Garbarino's office stepped
up after death threat, commissioner says 1

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said Friday that patrols have been stepped up around the local office of U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino after a retired Long Island Rail Road worker allegedly phoned in a threat to kill the congressman this week because of the elected official’s vote in favor of an infrastructure bill.

Defendant Kenneth Gasper, 64, of Lake Ronkonkoma, surrendered to police Wednesday evening before his arraignment Thursday on a misdemeanor aggravated harassment charge.

“We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” Ryder also said at a Friday news conference, adding that police take such threats very seriously “in the world that we’re living today.”

The commissioner said Garbarino “is very happy that the arrest was made,” after an investigation Nassau police did with United States Capitol Police.

A court complaint charging Gasper with the misdemeanor alleges he called Garbarino’s congressional office in Massapequa at about 3:30 p.m. Monday. The document says he spoke to a congressional staffer and “was extremely upset over an infrastructure bill” and “unhappy” with Garbarino’s vote on it.

Gasper, whose identity police said they determined later, “continually cursed” at the staffer and called the congressman a “RINO” — or Republican In Name Only — according to police and the court filing.

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Gasper also allegedly told the congressman’s employee: “If I see that (expletive) in the street I’m going to kill him!”

The call made Garbarino fear for his life and for the safety of employees in the Massapequa office, according to police. They said they used phone records to track down Gasper, who they said admitted he had called Garbarino’s office Monday.

Gasper also allegedly told a detective “if I see him” while referring to the congressman, but then stopped speaking, according to the court complaint.

The freshman legislator was one of 13 Republicans to vote Nov. 5 for the Democratic-led $1.2-trillion infrastructure package. Former President Donald Trump harshly criticized those Republican lawmakers and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called them traitors while Tweeting their names and office phone numbers, Newsday previously reported.

Nassau District Court Judge Christopher Coschignano released Gasper on his own recognizance Thursday after his arraignment in the Hempstead court and ordered him to get a mental health exam.

The judge also signed orders of protection for the congressman and the staffer who answered the alleged threatening call Monday that prohibits Gasper from any contact with them.

A Nassau Legal Aid Society lawyer who represented Gasper, a registered Republican, at his arraignment told the judge he had no other arrest record.

The judge seemed to allude to current political divisions by telling Gasper he recognized his frustration. But Coschignano, a Republican, also told the defendant that while complaining is one thing, a threat on someone’s life is something different.

Ryder said Friday that police searched Gasper’s home and didn’t find any weapons and that the defendant had expressed remorse.

“He realized he had crossed that line … I think he is upset with himself that he made this kind of threat. He got caught up in the moment,” the commissioner added.

Garbarino said in a statement Friday said that “there’s been so much misinformation circulating and it’s causing a lot of anger and confusion,” but that the infrastructure bill was “about paving roads, repairing bridges, and bringing jobs to Long Island.”

He added: “I’d like to thank the Nassau County Police Department as well as Capitol Police for working diligently to address this threat to me and my staff.”

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