Postcard Pandemonium: Why wasn’t activist charged after mailing AR-15 postcard?

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IDAHO FALLS — Some citizens are outraged that an elderly woman who frightened the community with a postcard will not face criminal charges.

Officials with the Idaho Falls Police Department say they empathize with the community, but there’s nothing to charge the woman with.

“We really feel that this is a very complicated situation that got blown out of proportion and the message has snowballed, and when people are scared, it’s easy to pass the word on,” IFPD spokeswoman Holly Cook said.

The woman in her 80s sent postcards to random homes in the Idaho Falls area showing an image of an AR-15 and the words “Coming to a school Near you?” Although many found the message alarming, police say the woman did not make a direct threat against a school or student.

“When the police looked at the Idaho Statute that might cover this situation, there’s an element of willfulness that someone has to satisfy,” Idaho Falls Assistant City Attorney Mike Kirkham said.

The woman is an activist and was trying to make a political statement, according to police. When a District 91 parent received the postcard and an image was uploaded to social media, the public didn’t receive it light-heartedly.

The school district, Idaho Falls Police Department and local media received hundreds of messages from concerned parents who viewed the message as a gun threat to a local school.

Kirkham said when it came to the facts, there wasn’t evidence illustrating probable cause that the person willfully intended to commit the crime.

Cook said in order to initiate legal proceedings, police must have probable cause to believe the person has committed a violation of one or more of the Idaho statutes outlined in 19-603 of Idaho Code.

She said one of the statutes on that list includes assault, which is defined in Idaho Code 18-901 as:

(a)  An unlawful attempt, coupled with apparent ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another; or
(b)  An intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.
 
“Idaho Falls Police did not have enough evidence to substantiate probable cause that the mailing of the postcard met the definition set forth in Idaho Code,” Cook said.

Kirkham said if anyone can prove there was willfulness to make a threat, they should contact authorities immediately.

“That’s the sort of thing that needs to get reported to the police right away,” Kirkham said “If that evidence is presented to the police or is presented to the city attorney’s office we’ll review that and see if that changes whether or not we think there’s enough evidence to charge the crime.”

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