Twenty-three-year-old David Etheridge from Appleton, Wisconsin was arrested after sending a school shooting threat to the FBI. Etheridge claimed he received subliminal messages from his TV and that the government is selling his personal information.
David Etheridge, a 23-year-old Appleton, Wisconsin man was charged in Outagamie County court on a single count of making a terrorist threat. He is being held on a $10,000 bond with conditions that forbid him from possessing dangerous weapons and that he not be within 1,000 feet of a school.
Over a two-month period, Etheridge sent more than 645 messages to the FBI through its tip line.
“Many of them were just repeated vulgarities,” said Sergeant Dave Lund, from the Appleton Police Department. “Some of them were, the best I can describe, ramblings. Many that just indicated annoyance.”
But it wasn’t until Etheridge sent a text threatening to “shoot up” a local school that federal authorities notified Appleton police, who then arrested him at his home on February 17. Police said the threat to shoot up the school was the only message that was criminal in nature.
During a search of Etheridge’s home, police recovered several rifles and numerous electronic devices. However, the police admit that it’s not uncommon for people in this part of the state to own hunting rifles and ammunition.
Even before this incident, Etheridge was known to police, who had visited him over domestic violence and property damage incidents.
Following his arrest, Etheridge admitted he sent the electronic message to the FBI and said he believed people were trying to hurt him. Etheridge also said he received subliminal messages from his television and maintains that the U.S. government is selling his personal information.
Describing his high school experience as one of isolation, Etheridge said his classmates humiliated and picked on him. When asked if those feelings were behind the comments about the school shooting, Etheridge said yes but also maintains that he has felt like an outsider for a very long time.
An unnamed relative, meanwhile, said that Etheridge has been suffering from depression, saying he had previously made verbal threats about killing himself or killing people. At the same time, when Etheridge saw shootings on TV, like the recent one in Florida, he would say, “What’s wrong with these people?”
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Melinda Tempelis, the Outagamie County District Attorney, said the case is about community safety with a mental health component.
Public defender Robert Welygan, meanwhile, has argued that Etheridge needs treatment; contacting police more than 600 times over a two-month span does not point to someone “going rogue,” nor is it a sign of someone not seeking help.
“Based on the allegations in the criminal complaint, it appears there is a very strong need for treatment and the best treatment is available here in the community, as opposed to in a confined setting,” Welygan said.