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He condemned antisemitism, now this Florida Sheriff is arresting people who are threatening him online

Source: Facebook

Peter Yankowski, Staff writer
Connecticut Post, Bridgeport

Authorities say a self-described “nationalist” from Connecticut whose family told police he’s “fascinated” with Hitler and spent time in white supremacist chat rooms is facing charges in Florida, after threatening to kill a sheriff who’s spoken out against antisemitism.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood drew widespread attention in February after he challenged a hate group that had been distributing antisemitic literature and appeared at a speedway holding banners at a pedestrian bridge. Chitwood claimed during a news conference that he’d been placed on the group’s “hit list.”

“You came to the wrong county, I stand with my Jewish friends and I’m honored to be on your hit list, it’s an honor to be sought after by a bunch of punk thugs like you,” Chitwood said.

After the clip of Chitwood’s incensed challenge went viral, authorities said death threats began rolling in, including one from a Connecticut man.

Connecticut resident Cristhian Zapata, 23, and two men from New Jersey and California have each been charged with making a written threat to kill, a felony.

Shelton police arrested Zapata on Wednesday on a warrant and he remains in custody on $100,000 bond ahead of extradition proceedings to Florida, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.

Authorities allege Zapata posted a message on 4chan, an anonymous image board site, threatening, “I WILL KILL CHITWOOD, MARK MY WORDS.” The post was “flagged by the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange for further investigation,” the sheriff’s office said.

According to the Florida affidavit used to charge Zapata, investigators then contacted 4chan with an emergency request for the IP address of the user who posted the April 7 message.

The website responded with a message containing an IP address and indicated the threatening message had been posted to a section of the site devoted to “politically incorrect” discussions that’s mostly a quagmire of racist memes, the warrant stated.

With the IP address, investigators were able to obtain the address of Zapata’s home through the internet service provider.

When Ansonia police went to the home on Monday, the landlord informed them Zapata had been living with his sister and her fiance, but they had just finished moving out on Sunday.

Police were able to meet with Zapata’s sister who told them “when she heard that we were inquiring about a case involving the internet, she immediately suspected it involved her brother,” an Ansonia police detective wrote to authorities in Florida, according to the warrant.

“She said Cristhian is fascinated with Adolph Hitler and those types of dictators,” the warrant stated.

Zapata’s sister also told investigators she “has seen him on the computer in chat rooms with white supremacists, and arguing with people on YouTube,” according to the warrant.

The sister came back to the police station with Zapata and his laptop.

During an interview, Zapata told police he grew up in Bridgeport and attended but did not graduate from Central High School, according to the affidavit. The affidavit stated Zapata told police “he learned about the events that were taking place down in Florida and the other online threats against Sheriff Chitwood.”

“He said he was surprised to discover that people were being arrested for the threats because he believes in the First Amendment. He denied being a part of any hate groups or other organizations,” the warrant stated. “He identified himself as being a nationalist and only a Trump supporter.”

He also admitted he made the post on 4chan, the warrant stated.

In a follow-up interview with Florida authorities, the sister “described her brother as a strange person who is harmless and spends all of his off-time online in weird chat rooms talking to unknown people about conspiracy theories and white supremacist ideology,” the warrant stated.

In addition to Zapata, Chitwood’s office said they’ve also charged New Jersey resident Richard Golden and California resident Tyler Meyer with the same offense.


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