Robert Kovner is the Florida man accused of threatening a mass shooting at a grocery store after expressing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Investigators said Kovner was upset about seeing people shopping without face masks or gloves.
Kovner expressed his annoyance on social media on April 14. He posted to the Sebring, Florida, Facebook group that if he was diagnosed with COVID-19, he would head to the Publix store and “empty every clip I own.”
The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and the Sebring Police Department were alerted to the Facebook post by other concerned group members. Kovner was arrested a short time later at his home and booked into the Highlands County Jail on $30,000 bond. The public information officer for the Highlands County Sheriff’s department confirmed to Heavy that Kovner posted bail on April 15 and was released.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Robert Kovner Threatened to Shoot ‘Selfish Aholes’ For Refusing to Wear Face Masks At a Publix, Deputies Say
The Highlands County Sheriff’s office says it received “multiple calls and 5 submitted tips” about a message Kovner had shared on the public Sebring, Florida, Facebook group. According to the arrest report obtained by Heavy, Kovner wrote on the page at approximately 4:23 p.m. on April 14. Deputies blacked out a screenshot of the Facebook post from the affidavit but included the text of the message in the report:
I FIND it criminal that you enter the supermarket or pharmacy without a mask as if you are either to stupid to understand the danger your spreading or so selfish you don’t give a f%8k that your endangering others? Will it take shooting a few of you Selfish aholes in the parking lot to get the message through? If I get diagnosed I will head right to Publix and empty every Clip I own!
The post has since been deleted from the Facebook group. Hours after Kovner’s arrest, a group member shared on the page: “We had an incident today! Someone in our group threatened a mass shooting. Threats like that should be reported to 911 immediately not just admin. Thanks to our Moderator Charles for handling the situation.” At least three commenters wrote that they had alerted the Highlands County Sheriff minutes after seeing Kovner’s original message.
2. Kovner Apologized On the Facebook Group & Shared That He Had Lost Family Members to the Coronavirus
Kovner was quick to apologize for the threatening message. The arrest report notes the original post was deleted and “another post was made from the same account apologizing.”
In the second message, Kovner repeated his call for community members to wear face masks and other personal protective equipment while the pandemic continues.
According to the Highland News-Sun, Kovner also shared that the coronavirus had impacted him directly. He said seven of his friends and family members had died from the virus and that his mother-in-law was “fighting for her life at the moment from this horrible virus.”
3. Sheriff’s Office: ‘There Is No Excuse For Making Threats Like This’
Kovner was arrested less than two hours after the threatening message was posted to Facebook, according to the arrest report. Deputies located Kovner at his home in Sebring, Florida, and he was taken into custody without incident.
Kovner made a statement to deputies after he was read his Miranda rights, but the department blacked out that portion of the arrest report.
The Highland County Sheriff’s Department wasted no time in announcing Kovner had been arrested. The arrest report notes he was taken into custody at 6:15 p.m. Just 20 minutes later, the department posted on its own Facebook page that Kovner had been apprehended.
Deputies used Kovner’s arrest as an example and warned others against issuing written threats. The department wrote in part, “We realize these are stressful times, but there is no excuse for making threats like this. It’s not a joke. It’s not just a bad day. It’s a crime. We will ALWAYS take them seriously and you will go to jail.”
4. Kovner Was Charged For Making a Written Threat to Conduct a Mass Shooting
Robert Kovner faces two felony charges. According to the arrest report by the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, Kovner is charged with:
- Written threat to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism
- Use of two way communication device to facilitate felony
The first charge is described in the Florida legal code:
Any person who writes or composes and also sends or procures the sending of any letter, inscribed communication, or electronic communication, whether such letter or communication be signed or anonymous, to any person, containing a threat to kill or to do bodily injury to the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or a threat to kill or do bodily injury to any member of the family of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or any person who makes, posts, or transmits a threat in a writing or other record, including an electronic record, to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat, commits a felony of the second degree.
Second-degree felony charges in Florida are punishable by up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
5. Five People Were Killed During a Mass Shooting In Sebring, Florida, In January 2019
The community of Sebring, Florida, has experienced the trauma of a mass shooting in its recent history. Five people were killed on January 23, 2019, when a gunman entered the SunTrust Bank located at 1901 U.S. 27 South.
Police said the gunman, later identified as Zephen Xaver, shot four bank employees and one customer in the backs of their heads. Xaver called 911 on himself before barricading himself inside the bank. He was arrested about two hours after taking over the bank. Xaver was later charged with five counts of premeditated murder and pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty.
Investigators said the victims did not know the gunman and described the attack as “random.” The five women killed were identified as Marisol Lopez, Ana Pinon-Williams, Jessica Montague, Debra Cook, and Cynthia Watson. Read tributes to them here.