A Deadly Dance

In the shadow of the towering Rocky Mountains, a deadly dance played out between an armed Utah man and the cold machinery of federal justice, leaving the soul of a community shaken and casting a wild, uneasy light on the divide between radicalized online rantings and the unfeeling might of the government.

Craig Deleeuw Robertson, a 74-year-old gun enthusiast, Air Force veteran, and devoted churchgoer, found himself ensnared in the web of authority after he dared to hurl violent threats against President Joe Biden over the internet. Family and neighbors, still stunned by the madness of the situation, described Robertson as both a passionate patriot and a God-fearing church elder who became unhinged at what he saw as “a corrupt and overreaching government.”

FBI in Provo shooting
Robertson’s bullet-riddled body lies in the street in front of his home. Screenshot from YouTube and ABC World News.

“There was very little he could do but exercise his First Amendment right to free speech,” cried his family, wounded and bewildered, defending a man who, to them, was merely voicing his “sometimes intemperate” grievances in the sprawling circus that is the internet.

The chilling echo of the septuagenarian’s threats resonated in the dark corridors of power, leading the FBI on a relentless hunt that ended in a Provo cul-de-sac, with the sharp crack of gunfire and the finality of Robertson’s death. Neighbors stood aghast, trapped in a nightmare as the law came down hard on a man they knew as a kindly grandpa figure. One neighbor, Katie Monson, likened the terrible transformation between Robertson’s in-person demeanor and online persona to “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

“I can’t speak to his online life, but he had a peaceful, religious, community-centered side to him. That was how he presented himself in everyday life,” she said, trembling slightly, a haunted look in her eyes.

In this twisted tale, questions loom large over the horizon like dark storm clouds:

Was the elderly man truly a threat to the most powerful man in the land? Was the thunderous response of the authorities warranted or merely an overreaction in a time when the line between online vitriol and real-world violence has grown treacherously thin?