A U.S. citizen who has been living abroad in Thailand was arrested at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport last week in connection with threats made to assault and murder Republican North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis nearly two years ago.
“It is unacceptable to make violent threats against anyone. And when threats are directed at elected officials or members of the armed forces, it can impact their ability to serve our country effectively,” FBI Special Agent Robert M. DeWitt said Tuesday.
On one particular Sept. 29, 2021, phone call, Welton allegedly identified himself by name and provided an email by which he could be reached. Federal authorities have identified that particular email account as one Welton used and listed on a U.S. passport application.
During his Sept. 29, 2021, phone call to Tillis' office, Welton allegedly expressed his anger again at receiving political emails. This time, however, Welton suggested he might travel to Tillis' Raleigh, North Carolina office space and kill everyone at the office.
"Maybe I just gotta [sic] go down there to 310 New Bern Avenue and just kill everybody I see," Welton allegedly said.
Welton explained that he lived overseas and once again said, "What I hear is I should fly back over there, walk into 310 New Bern Avenue and teach you what 'Stand My Ground' means, put a bullet through each of your heads."
During the call, Welton also allegedly described a desire to "mow" the "whole [expletive] state down." He also allegedly said he was living in a war zone created by former President Donald Trump; though it's unclear what Trump-era policies he may have been referencing.
"The last thing you want is me crawling through your [expletive] back yard," Welton allegedly said. He also allegedly told the staff member to tell this to "your little Thom boy." Welton also referenced having cancer and said "the idea of a suicide vest means I don't have to go through chemotherapy."
Threats to Marines, Consulate StaffBetween October and November 2022, Welton reportedly became angered once again after his wife, a citizen of Thailand, was denied a visa to enter the United States. Welton allegedly contacted the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai multiple times to express his anger over the visa issue.
Welton is accused of specifically making violent threats in a Nov. 2, 2022, voicemail he left with the U.S. Consulate. Welton allegedly identified himself as Eric and lashed out at the consulate for suggesting he seek legal counsel to address the visa issue.
Arrest and ChargesWelton was apprehended in Atlanta upon returning to the United States on May 25.
He was charged with threatening a federal official in violation of 18 U.S.C. 115(a)(1)(B). If convicted of that particular charge, Welton faces up to 10 years in prison. The DOJ said Welton may face additional charges for his actions.
Welton's father, Richard Welton, spoke to federal investigators as part of their effort to track him down. Richard told investigators that his son "was a Socialist and was set off by ideas he did not agree with." Richard also said his son made calls regarding political emails and even contacted the White House switchboard at one point.
Investigators had Richard listen to recordings of several calls his son allegedly made. He expressed difficulty hearing some of the audio but said a Sept. 29, 2021, call to Tillis' office "could be" from his son.