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Clearwater man threatened to kill Trump supporters in YouTube comments, police say

He was arrested on charges of false report concerning the use of a firearm in a violent manner
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Published Nov. 5, 2020
Updated Nov. 5, 2020

A 61-year-old Clearwater man was arrested Wednesday on charges that he left comments on YouTube videos threatening to kill supporters of President Trump, prominent Republican politicians and the man’s neighbor, according to police.

The Florida Fusion Center, which analyzes threat-related information from federal partners, was notified of the posts about 3:17 a.m. They traced the IP address to Richard Szala, according to Clearwater police.

Szala had posted threats on YouTube about several prominent GOP politicians on Nov. 4, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Rand Paul; and U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio, according to police.

He also threatened to kill Trump supporters and his neighbor.

Clearwater detectives contacted Szala at his residence after coordinating with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service. The detectives interviewed Szala and said they obtained a confession and consent to take his firearm, computer and phone, according to the agency.

He was arrested on charges of false report concerning the use of a firearm in a violent manner.

“People are emotional right now,” said Clearwater city spokesperson Joelle Castelli. “I think the message here is that, if you are making threats, they are going to be taken seriously.”

Szala was accused of phone harassment in Illinois in 1989, police said. He was being booked into the Pinellas County jail late Wednesday but his bail was not available.