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?

Was there no way, given all of the resources of the Federal Government, to take this old man alive?

A True Threat?

FBI complaint
A snippet of the FBI document stating why they believed they had probable cause to arrest Robertson.

The grim drama in Provo casts a long shadow over a nation grappling with a new era of political division, online radicalization, and mistrust in law enforcement. The FBI, silent and stoic, declined to respond to the family’s cries, leaving an unsettling void where answers should be.

Robertson’s death becomes a feverish symbol of a nation wrestling with its own soul, teetering on the brink of chaos, and trying desperately to find balance. As neighbor Jon Michael Ossola remarked on the deadly raid, “It still felt, like, a bit unsettling about how many people were there and just kind of how forceful it felt.” A sentiment shared by many who wonder if the delirium of a few online rants should warrant such a drastic and fatal response.

Robertson Social media post
One of Robertson’s social media posts. Screenshot from YouTube.

In the end, the family’s sorrowful words linger in the air, a sad epitaph to a life cut short:

“The salient point is that he was never actually going to hurt anyone.”

But in a nation where fear and mistrust run rampant, those words may be nothing but a cold comfort.