Arizona man arrested for threats, linked to 'religiously-motivated terrorist attack' in Australia

Federal officials arrested a 58-year-old Arizona man on Friday for allegedly threatening the head of the World Health Organization, and linked him to a fatal attack on police in Australia last year.

Donald Day Jr. was arrested Friday in Heber-Overgaard  by FBI agents after he was indicted by a grand jury on Nov. 29 for two counts of interstate threats. Day remains in custody after he appeared in court Tuesday, according to court records.

From January 2022 through February 2023, Day” engaged in a course of conduct demonstrating a desire to incite violence and threaten a variety of groups and individuals including law enforcement and government authorities,” according to the indictment. Day was arrested in Heber-Overgaard, a small community of about 2,500
tucked into the edge of the Mogollon Rim, about 50 miles northeast of
Phoenix.

In videos, Day called himself a “ex-con, who’s armed to the teeth” and said he owned firearms, including a rifle and a shotgun, according to court records. Day was arrested in Heber-Overgaard, a small community of about 2,500
tucked into the edge of the Mogollon Rim, about 50 miles northeast of
Phoenix.

Prosecutors linked Day to a violent incident just outside of Queensland, Australia, on Dec. 16, 2022  that left six dead, including two police officers. Police later called the murders a “religiously-motivated terrorist attack.”

That day, four police officers tried to enter the property of Gareth, Nathaniel, and Stacy Train to search for a missing person and were immediately fired upon. Two officers were killed, and one other was wounded, the Guardian reported. The Trains set fire to long grass where the remaining officer was hiding, and they shot and killed a neighbor before engaging in a firefight with arriving officers. All three members of the Trains were killed by police. 

As police closed in on the Trains, they posted a video titled “Don’t be afraid” to their YouTube channel, and said of the police “they came to kill us, and we killed them.”

According to the indictment, Day and the Trains “regularly commented on each other’s videos” and Day referred to the Trains as “brother” and “sister.” He also said they were unarmed “as we are in America, that at least have that one resort to fight against fucking tyrants in this country.”

In fact, the trio had set up their property to ambush police, with camouflaged redoubts supported by cameras and radios, and they owned at least six firearms, as well as compound bows and knives. In February, in the deputy commissioner of the Queensland Police said she met with the FBI over a “person of interest” who lived in the U.S., the Guardian reported.

Australian officials linked the Trains “premillennialism” to the Waco siege in Texas, when members of the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh ambushed federal officers. The gunfight lead to a 51-day standoff that ended when the group’s compound burned to the ground.

After the killings, Day posted a response a comment, using the account “Geronimo’s Bones” and said he wished he was in Australia. He later posted two videos to YouTube supporting the Trains’ actions and threatened to attack law enforcement who came to his home. “The devils come for us, they fucking die. It’s just that simple,” Day said, according to court records.

Prosecutors said Day’s posts were “knowingly” made “with the intent to communicate a true threat of violence and with recklessness as to whether the communication would be viewed as a true threat of violence,” violating federal law.

In February, Day also threatened Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization. 

On a video posted to BitChute—a site created in 2017 as an alternative to YouTube and known for hosting far-right content, including conspiracies and hate-speech—Day threatened Ghebreyesus for appearing in a video about the Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea. 

In the video, Ghebreyesus spoke about Marburg—a hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola—and said there was no vaccine.

“It is time to kill these monsters, and any who serve them,” Day said. “Where are my kind? Where are you? Am I the only one?”

Day faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years probation.

Last week, a 51-year-old man was arrested for allegedly threatening to drive his truck into the front of the Casino del Sol casino near Tucson and commit a mass shooting.

And, in October, federal officials charged a 27-year-old man who posted to a group Snapchat and allegedly claimed he was going to buy an AR-15 and use it to attack fraternities and sororities on the University of Arizona campus.

As Court Watch’s Seamus Hughes noted earlier this year there has been “a meteoric rise in the number of federal arrests of individuals who have communicated violent threats to public officials.” 

Hughes, based at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Pete Simi at Chapman Univeristy, found 2022 was a “record-setting year for federal arrests on this issue over the past decade” with at least 74 cases filed.

Hughes and Simi found that over the last decade, at least 501 people were arrested for sending threats to public officials, and more than half “don’t have an explicit ideological motivation that can be readily discerned from the filings.” 

Those with “an ideological bent” tend to be anti-government actors, or are espousing racist beliefs, the researchers wrote. They also found around 70 percent of people have a criminal background and a “good number” are “serial threateners” with a history of threatening federal officials. At least 32 cases were filed in Texas, however, New York leads in federal charges with 43 cases filed since 2013.

As Bloomberg reported, there’s been an increase in threats against federal judges, which rose from 178 threats in 2019 to 311 in 2022. In the first three months of 2023 there were more than 280 threats.