Man arrested for threatening attacks on Pride parades, faces five years in prison

Robert Fehring allegedly vowed to make the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub “look like a cakewalk”

A Long Island man was charged on Monday for sending letters in which he threatened to assault and bomb local LGBTQ2S+ events, such as vowing to attack the organizers of a local Pride parade. Robert Fehring allegedly said he planned to “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk.”

Fehring, 74, has reportedly sent at least 60 letters to New York LGBTQ2S+ organizers and community members since 2013, according to the New York Times. Earlier this year, he sent a letter to an organizer of a June 2021 Pride event in East Meadow, New York, in which he called the organizer a “freak” and a “snake.” In the letter, Fehring implied that he and others had been at the Pride event—with the intent of shooting the organizer—but said that there were “too many cops.” 

“But your time has come… they are out to KILL you… and your boyfriend,” the letter continued. “You are being watched. No matter how long it takes, you will be taken out… high-powered bullet… bomb… knife… whatever it takes.”

Another letter sent this year threatened violence at the 2021 New York City Pride parade, claiming that there would be radio-controlled devices at “numerous strategic places” along the parade route, and “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk”—a reference to the June 12, 2016, shooting in which 49 people were killed. The vast majority of victims were Latinx, and the event remains one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. 

According to a press release from the Eastern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, a Nov. 18 search of Fehring’s home by the FBI’s Civil Rights Squad and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force found a stockpile of weapons. They included two loaded shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns, an American flag-patterned machete and a DVD titled “Underground Build Your Own Silencer System.”

The search also turned up photographs from a June 2021 Pride event in East Meadow, as well as a stamped envelope addressed to an attorney who worked on LGBTQ2S+ cases containing the remains of a dead bird. (The complaint did not specify the attorney’s name.)

If convicted, Fehring could spend up to five years in prison. 

Local organizers and recipients of Fehring’s letters expressed relief regarding the news. David Kilmnick, president of the New York LGBT Network (which operates several LGBTQ2S+ community centres and runs Long Island Pride), said that he was just “glad this is taken care of.” 

“We are hopeful that justice will finally be served and a dangerous individual is no longer free to terrorize our community with extreme hate, bias and violence,” he told told the New York ABC news affiliate WABC.

 

Despite his relief, Kilmnick also expressed frustration that it had taken so long for authorities to track Fehring down and that he was allowed to be released on bail. “There is no reason why we had to live through this fear and anxiety for the past eight years,” he told the Times.

While some reports indicate rising public acceptance of LGBTQ2S+ people in the U.S., reports of hate crimes are on the rise. A 2020 FBI report shows an uptick in reported anti-LGBTQ2S+ attacks in the U.S., with 16.7 percent of the total number of reported crimes in this category based on sexual orientation. Hate crimes motivated by the victim’s gender identity have also been on the rise, with 2021 once again breaking records for the number of anti-trans homicides.

Oliver Haug

Contributing editor Oliver Haug (they/them) is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area, California. Their work focuses on LGBTQ2S+ issues and sexual politics, and has appeared in Bitch, them, Ms and elsewhere.

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Power, News, Pride, Hate Watch, Homophobia

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