Meredith Dowty is the Kansas man accused of threatening to kill the mayor of Wichita over the citywide mask mandate that was implemented to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Wichita Police Department, investigators were “alerted to threatening statements directed toward” the mayor on October 16 and arrested Dowty the same day.
The messages were not sent directly to Mayor Brandon Whipple. The Wichita Eagle reported Dowty contacted someone who knew where Whipple lived and asked that person for the mayor’s address. Whipple said the sender explained in detail about how he intended to kidnap Whipple and cut his throat.
Dowty’s arrest comes on the heels of a separate plot in Michigan aimed at the state’s governor. Several men involved in a militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen were accused of planning to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer and “put her on trial.” 13 people are facing charges.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Meredith Dowty Accused Brandon Whipple of ‘Tyranny’ & Expressed Anger Over Being Unable to Visit His Mother, Whipple Said
The Wichita Police Department quickly identified Dowty as the suspect after learning about the threatening messages against the mayor, according to a news release.
Dowty texted a different city official to try to learn Whipple’s home address, the mayor told the Wichita Eagle. That official contacted the police, who then alerted Whipple and shared the contents of the messages with him.
“It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of COVID restrictions on elderly homes,” Whipple told the newspaper. He added that in the texts, Dowty suggested a motive by stating that he was against “masks and tyranny.”
The texts graphically laid out what Dowty planned to do with Whipple. Whipple told CNN he has received threats before but that this one was unique because of the detail. “This threat was more specific about kidnapping me and cutting my throat,” Whipple said. “Those were what was read to me. They were graphic.”
It was not clear whether Whipple’s political affiliation was a factor in regards to the threat. Whipple is part of the Democratic party and previously served in the Kansas House. According to voter registration records on the Kansas Secretary of State website, Dowty is a registered Republican.
2. Dowty Faces a Criminal Threat Charge
Dowty was arrested on October 16 and booked into the Sedgwick County Detention Center just after 6 p.m., according to inmate records.
Dowty faces a felony “Criminal Threat” charge. The specific statute is 21.5415.A.1. The Kansas legislature explains on its website that a criminal threat is any threat to:
Commit violence communicated with intent to place another in fear, or to cause the evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities of any building, place of assembly or facility of transportation, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such fear or evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities.
The inmate record shows bond was set at $50,000. It was not immediately clear whether Dowty had hired an attorney.
3. Masks Have Been Required in Public Places in Wichita Since July
Whipple signed off on an ordinance in July that mandates that masks be worn in all public places as the pandemic continues. The first violation would result in a $25 fine, according to the ordinance. The mask mandate was later extended until at least October 21.
In response to today’s story concerning a threat I received:
Violence is never a way to settle disagreements. We’re always stronger together as a City even when times are at their toughest. Tensions may be high, but we will get through this together as Wichitans.
Chelsea, the boys, & I appreciate the kind thoughts & prayers. We also would like to thank the brave men & women of the @WichitaPolice who protect not just us, but our entire community. Thank you for the fast response in this matter & for all you do.
4. Dowty Is a Retired Firefighter
As shared this morning, a Wichita man allegedly threatened to kidnap & kill the mayor over the city's mask mandate.@Buzzfeed: https://t.co/KFwlL6MkIN @KAKENews: https://t.co/8zGIqIaEUM#KAKENews pic.twitter.com/4nZhijFlhj
— Annette Lawless KAKE 🌻 (@AnnetteLawless) October 17, 2020
Dowty previously served the city of Wichita as a firefighter. According to the Wichita Eagle, the city council honored Dowty and others for saving a police officer’s life in 2008.
The newspaper reported in 2008 that Officer Derek Purcell thought he was going to die after he was shot in both legs while on-duty. Other officers arrived at the scene within seconds and did what they could to slow the bleeding.
Dowty was one of seven firefighters who was also on-duty and responded to help Purcell. The Wichita Eagle quoted Dowty after the incident when explaining how speed can make all the difference when dealing with a trauma victim. Dowty told the newspaper that “generally, you try to meet a ‘golden hour'” to improve survival rates but that Purcell “had golden seconds.'”
5. Dowty Is Known in Wichita as a Musician Who Performs Under the Name ‘Cathead’
Dowty is a known figure in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle cited a former employee who said Dowty performs at local bars and uses the name “Cathead.”
According to a Facebook page under that name, “Cathead” is a “solo guitarist playing harmonica and vocals.” He explained in the “about” section that he plays a “variety of classic covers” by musicians including the Beatles, the Eagles, Johnny Cash, Matchbox 20, Merle Haggard, Neil Young, Don Henley, Amy Grant and others.
The page has not been updated since October 2019.