Colorado state police arrested a man accused of threatening the state’s top election official, court records showed on Friday, the first such detention since authorities began strengthening laws on election-related threats last year.
Kirk Samuel Wertz, 52, was arrested on Wednesday night and placed in Denver’s jail, the records show. He faces a felony charge of “retaliation” against an elected official.
On the morning of June 30, the office of Secretary of State Jena Griswold received a threat from a caller, according to Griswold’s office.
“Hey, I’ve got a message for the Secretary and I want you to pass it along: The angel of death is coming for her in the name of Jesus Christ,” Griswold’s office said the caller stated.
The arrest is the first for an election-related threat since Colorado lawmakers in May 2021 passed legislation criminalizing retaliation against elected officials.
Griswold, a Democrat, said in a statement that threats were being used to intimidate election officials “in an effort to destabilize democracy.”
“The wave of violent threats directed at election officials and workers across the county is extremely concerning,” Griswold added.
Wertz did not have a lawyer listed on the court documents and efforts to contact him were unsuccessful.
Carolyn Tyler, the communications director for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, said she was not immediately able to provide guidelines for the punishment Wertz could face.
According to court documents, Wertz was charged with two counts of felony menacing and disorderly conduct after he pointed a gun at a car that he claimed cut him off in traffic in 2021. After being convicted by a jury, Wertz’s verdict was overturned based on the state’s self-defense provision that does not require a person to try to deescalate the situation.