Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blog post about shooting rampage leads to charges


BLAINE, Wash. – Jeffrey Gargaro says he was just expressing his opinion when he posted a blog on a newspaper Web site following this month’s Skagit County shooting rampage that left six people dead including a sheriff’s deputy.

Now, prosecutors have charged him with felony harassment because they say he threatened to shoot up a mall.

The day after the rampage, Gargaro logged onto the Bellingham Herald Web site and went to the community blog section where readers started sounding off on what caused it all.

"Blame single parents, drugs, schooling, maybe mental illness without looking at the facts. I thought that was wrong,” said Gargaro.

Frustrated, he decided to write this post:

"Also to all of you who blame drugs ... shut up as well. You know what, I am going to go shoot up Sunset Square today ... just for the hell of it. No drugs, no mental illness ... you can blame today’s episode on video games and George Bush's example of 'pay back' to society.

"Maybe I could have worded it differently,” said Gargaro. “but I'm not sorry for what I wrote because my intent wasn't harm. It wasn't a threat. It was to get people to think outside of the box and have an open and public debate.

The question is did anyone think he was coming to Sunset Square to do the shooting? Prosecutors say the police did and called it malicious harassment.

Gargaro’s attorney says it was taken out of context and now it’s an issue of free speech.

"This was a computer news media blog. There's no rules, and if you read these blogs, you'll see people make derogatory comments. These blogs are obviously notoriously bombastic,” said attorney Jeffrey Lustick.

Now, the married father of two young girls faces a felony charge. The irony is that now readers are sounding off about Gargaro’s arrest and many of them are voicing support.

"There are a lot of nice things that people said. My family and I read their messages and we appreciate it,” said Gargaro.

The Whatcom County prosecutor says it doesn’t matter if Gargaro meant to harm anyone and that what he wrote was perceived an imminent threat.

Trial is set for November.

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