US Expatriate Charged With Threatening to Kill Sen. Thom Tillis, Marines

US Expatriate Charged With Threatening to Kill Sen. Thom Tillis, Marines
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) speaks to supporters in Mooresville, N.C., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Ryan Morgan

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.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had arrested and charged Eric Charles Welton with making threats against Tillis in September of 2021. Welton also allegedly made threats against U.S. Marines and other people working at the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at the end of 2022.

“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.

According to an indictment (pdf) unsealed on May 26, Welton made seven phone calls to the offices of Sen. Tillis and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Welton allegedly identified himself by name in several of the calls and repeatedly expressed his anger at receiving unsolicited political emails from the Republican Party.

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."

Welton allegedly ended this threatening phone call by asking, "How do we get this message through to Thom boy?" Welton also allegedly added that he would find the person responsible for sending him the Republican Party's political emails and "cut their [expletive] hands off and shove them up their [expletive] [expletive]."

Threats to Marines, Consulate Staff

Between 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.

"Now I'm going to kill a bunch of Marines and that's about all where it is, because you mother-[expletives] are so [expletive] useless and worthless and that's all you can tell me," he allegedly said. "So, you want those [expletive] Marines to live, you [expletive] contact me back. You know how to get in touch with me. But you want to save some lives of some [expletive] Marines in [expletive] Chiang Mai, Thailand, you can [expletive] contact me back, you little [expletive] [expletive]. Otherwise, [expletive] you and I look forward to killing everybody in your [expletive] office, you little [expletive]."

Arrest and Charges

Welton 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.

No attorney is listed for Welton at this time.