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Threats of violence against others followed man's move to St. Petersburg

A California man moved to St. Petersburg last year. He told police it was tough starting over. But his ways didn't open doors.

He threatened to kill people and blow up businesses, officers reported, and he fractured a detective's cheekbone.

James Gluz, 35, was federally charged this week with posting threats over the Internet. The indictment singles out three such incidents, but since Gluz's arrival in the Tampa Bay area, authorities have investigated others.

Among the alleged targets: a Treasure Island cafe, its owner, the owner of a gym chain, Secretary of State John Kerry, a California middle school, an out-of-state bank and a landlord.

He hasn't followed through on any of the threats, but that hasn't stopped people from worrying. St. Petersburg police have knocked on his door at least a dozen times over the past year, acting on the jitters of citizens who complained or relatives who inquired about his well-being.

When the management of Brandywine Apartments told Gluz in May he would need to find another place to live, an email response followed.

"Make me," it said. "I have a gun. I have rights."

St. Petersburg police haven't found a gun, though a search of his apartment once turned up two boxes of bullets, a shoulder holster and a side holster.

In several cases, he admitted to making threats, reports show, but assured officers he didn't intend to hurt himself or others.

On one occasion in December, Gluz was asked if he would hurt law enforcement.

"Gluz paused before answering," an officer wrote, "and then stated he would do what he needed to if he felt an officer was acting outside of his duties and violating his rights."

Five months later, in May, he was accused of using the Internet to threaten an Atherton, Calif., police officer with death.

And on June 4, St. Petersburg police reported Gluz punched a detective in the face as he was being arrested in connection with a bomb threat to a bank.

• • •

Gluz also uses the name Jimi Atherton, especially on social media. The name is a blend of his nickname and the town where he used to live, the wealthiest town in America.

He is the son of Russian immigrants, including a father who founded a software company. Gluz told police he lives off investments. The family home is currently on the market for nearly $15 million.

Last summer, his mother reported him missing.

"The son I know, he wouldn't hurt a fly," Natalia Gluz said Wednesday. "He's very caring. He helped a lot of people — sick, terminally ill people, people who are anorexic.

"I don't know what's going on. I try to understand myself."

In one report, police quote her saying that Gluz stopped taking medication for bipolar disorder. The condition, known for producing shifts in mood and energy, frustrates millions of Americans but is often controlled with treatment, allowing people to live normal lives.

Now Gluz's mental health could factor into his defense.

The most serious of the three federal counts, threatening to blow up Foxy's Cafe in Treasure Island, carries a maximum possible penalty of 10 years.

In addition to the federal case, he's in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, charged with battery of the police officer and the bank bomb threat. Defense attorney Rohom Khonsari said Gluz saw deposits and withdrawals that he didn't recognize on his bank statement, leading to a conflict with Ohio-based U.S. Bank.

"We're exploring his mental health history and how that has contributed," Khonsari said.

• • •

The Twitter account Gluz uses, @JimiAtherton, describes him as CEO for the Youfit gym chain. It was never true. He worked briefly at a Youfit in St. Petersburg, but he was fired in July 2014 "for being aggressive and cursing his clients," police reports say.

The chain's founder, Rick Berks, became the subject of online threats from Gluz, the reports say.

A Foxy's Cafe employee told police that, after meeting Gluz once, she began receiving Instagram posts from "jimiatherton100." One photo of her boyfriend included the comment, "He is a dead man! Grab me a gun, I'll do it myself."

The defendant's brother, Jason Gluz, said Gluz has never carried out premeditated violence.

"It's only my opinion," he said, "but it looks like my brother is sick and lashing out in anger looking for help, and the only way our government knows how to respond to people in despair is incarceration."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

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