An accused double murderer in Alaska who earlier this year allegedly threatened to maim and kill a Florida sheriff who spoke out against neo-Nazi activity in his county is now under federal indictment on five criminal counts of cyberstalking and interstate threats—and one person in particular isn’t shedding any tears.
“I already have a card written out for him that says I hope he has a long, slow, rotting death in that jail cell,” Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood told The Daily Beast on Tuesday evening. “It’s written out, signed. I don’t want to send it up there now, [in case] it screws up the U.S. Attorney’s case. But once we move further on down the line, he can expect that card—it says, ‘From the desk of Sheriff Chitwood’ on it.”
Joshua Wahl, 31, of Dillingham, Alaska was arrested on Aug. 20 on murder charges after 32-year-old Jennifer Gardiner and 31-year-old Timothy Evans were fatally shot in a house near the city’s airport. A few days later, the feds hit him with the stalking and interstate threat charges, which carry a combined maximum of 25 years in prison.
“Real class act of a human being,” Chitwood said. “You talk about the definition of a scumbag, he's it.”
Speaking to The Daily Beast while driving to speak at a Boy Scouts of America event about leadership and being a good citizen, Chitwood said the threats began on March 31, when Wahl told him in an email that he was prepared to kill him, and that he had a cache of lasers and explosives at the ready, according to a Sept. 25 indictment handed down by a federal grand jury. The message included links to a YouTube video showing Wahl using a laser to burn a hole in a photo of Chitwood’s face, and in other shots, Wahl appeared to be holding explosives in front of Chitwood’s picture, according to the indictment.
“I responded back to him, called him a piece of shit, [told him], ‘You’re a cowardly scumbag,’” Chitwood recalled. “You know, he took the time to send these emails to me.”
The alleged threats were part of a wider backlash by members of the far-right against Chitwood after the sheriff very publicly belittled the neo-Nazis who descended on Daytona Beach, Florida last February. Wahl is not known to have ever crossed paths with Chitwood but was definitely a known quantity in Alaska.
Wahl ran a YouTube channel under the moniker “laseranon,” where he posted tutorials teaching others how to use lasers to blind members of law enforcement, the feds say. On April 5, the indictment says Wahl posted on the anonymous and unregulated message board 4Chan, “Blind and kill Shitwood in real life, not fucking Minecraft. I have been posting this for a month and I have not been arrested. I also got away with trying to blow up a synagogue. I am an actual terrorist!!!” Another 4Chan post vowed to go after Chitwood with “explosives, sound, plasma, lasers and ap ammo,” and boasted of a plan to “shoot him the fucking head with a overpressure 10mm round.” A third showed a photo of Chitwood with a hole burned in his face and said, “Kill Mike Chitwood in irl, not fucking video games.”
“Come and do something about it fedboys,” the post taunted.
As it turned out, Wahl was already on the FBI’s radar for shining laser pointers at airline pilots flying above, Chitwood told The Daily Beast.
“He had threatened a number of FBI agents, their families, he was well-known to the Alaska troopers,” Chitwood said. “I mean, they all knew him.”
Then last month, Chitwood got a call from an FBI agent in Alaska, who dropped a bombshell on the Volusia sheriff: “He’s like, ‘Hey, man, you’re not gonna believe this. He just shot and killed his fiancée’s sister and her husband, and we got him locked up.”
When investigators searched Wahl’s digital devices, they “uncovered a lot of stuff” pertaining to Chitwood that allegedly violated federal law, he said.
The FBI asked Chitwood if he would sign a letter agreeing to prosecute. It wasn’t a difficult decision, Chitwood said, adding that he had been receiving threats and unhinged rants “hundreds at a time” not only from Wahl “but from all these other lunatics, all over.”
“If you don’t stand up to it, then you’re complicit, in my opinion,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood believes most of the people actually “whipping up the frenzy” in chat rooms and forums like 4Chan “don’t have the guts to pull the trigger themselves.” But, he said, “They know that there’s somebody out there that this will resonate with.” What worries him is stochastic terrorism—that the loudest, most radical online voices will encourage others to do their real-life bidding.
He ran down a list of recent mass shootings in the U.S., pointing to a 2019 shooting at an El Paso Walmart in which the suspect targeted Latinos, a 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in which the suspect targeted Jews, and a 2022 shooting at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in which the suspect targeted members of the Black community. There’s one thing they all have in common, Chitwood said: “They’re all in this 4Chan chat, with hundreds of others, listening to this crazy nonsense about annihilating people for their race, or their ethnicity, or their religion, or their sexual orientation.”
Some six months after he first emerged onto the global stage amid a spate of antisemitic incidents in Volusia, Chitwood continues to receive virulent death threats as a matter of course. And although they are not necessarily coming in with the same frequency, it’s enough that Chitwood no longer answers calls from numbers he doesn’t recognize and has shut off his phone’s voicemail, he said.
“But, what are you gonna do?” Chitwood said, as his GPS chirped in the background with directions to the Boy Scouts event. “And hey, I’d rather them come after me than come after some poor older woman, or come after a family trying to raise their children and scared to death to send their kids to school because of what these idiots are posting.”
Wahl is at least the fifth 4Chan user charged with threatening Chitwood. The motive behind last month's double homicide remains unclear.