A man who neighbors described as being 75 years old with limited mobility and whose frequent politically charged social media posts included threats toward President Joe Biden is dead after FBI agents attempted to serve a search warrant at his Provo home, hours ahead of the president’s arrival in Utah.

Neighbors confirmed to the Deseret News the man killed was Craig Robertson, saying he is an older, overweight man who walks with a cane.

A Facebook account which neighbors said belonged to Robertson showed multiple posts threatening violence against Biden during his visit to Utah, including asking whether the state will become famous “as the place a sniper took out Biden the Marxist” and urging Utahns to fire their guns into the air when Air Force One arrives.

Robertson also posted a message directed at the FBI on July 27 and shared it again two days ago, saying “Hey FBI, you still monitoring my social media? Checking so I can be sure to have a loaded gun handy in case you drop by again.”

The page, which appears to have been taken down Wednesday afternoon, contained politically charged posts made almost daily expressing outrage at Democrats, especially Biden and his family, for months.

ABC News reported the FBI was at the home in connection with an investigation into alleged threats against President Joe Biden and others, according to two officials briefed on the case.

No information about how the incident unfolded has been publicly released by law enforcement. CBS News reported it was told by law enforcement sources that the man engaged FBI agents in a gunfight when they tried to serve a warrant. 

Biden arrived in Salt Lake City on Wednesday afternoon. The president was briefed by senior staff on the FBI shooting this morning, a White House official said.

Neighbors describe shots fired, swarms of law enforcement

Cooper Robinson, who lives in the neighborhood, told the Deseret News he was walking his dog early in the morning when he saw several unmarked vehicles, including an armored truck, block the street. He said he could hear agents yelling, “Craig Robertson, please come out with your hands up,” several times, as well as what sounded like “three or four flashbang grenades.” 

One person is dead following a shooting involving an FBI agent in Provo on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

After some time, Robinson said he heard “shouting and some yelling, I couldn’t pick out what they were saying. But at some point I did hear five shots fired.” 

Robinson said he couldn’t tell whether there was an exchange of gunfire between the FBI and the suspect. “I just heard the five shots.” 

Nyla Rollins, who lives near Robertson, initially thought his house was on fire when she saw the law enforcement response. When she went outside, members of a SWAT team told her to go back in her house. She estimated there were 50 agents there.

“They called for my neighbor … to come out. And he’s like, ‘I’m not coming out (expletive).’ And then I didn’t hear anything after that,” Rollins said. 

She said the SWAT team, who had been searching with guns drawn, went through his back door with a battering ram and stayed for hours. 

Related
‘He has a gun!’ An eyewitness details what happened when the FBI came to a Provo neighborhood

Travis Clark, who lives around the street and knew Robertson well, said he learned about the shooting early Wednesday morning. At 6 a.m., his wife got up and carried on with her morning routine. It wasn’t until after the family did their morning prayers that they learned that Robertson had been shot.

At about 8:30 am, Clark’s wife came home and told him, “Craig’s body is lying out there on the sidewalk.”

Clark expressed shock at the level of law enforcement response.

“The FBI just came and shot an elderly man from my ward,” Clark said “You know, a guy who’s nearly 80 years old, 300 pounds, and can barely get around with a cane.”

Robertson charged with threats 1 day before shooting

The FBI has had Robertson under surveillance for a number of months, according to a federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday. The indictment charges Robertson with making interstate threats, making threats against federal law enforcement and making threats against the president.

“I hear Biden is coming to Utah. Digging out my old ghille suit and cleaning the dust off the m24 sniper rifle. Welcom, buffoon-in-chief!” Robertson wrote Monday in a social media post, according to the 37-page complaint.

A ghillie suit is a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble the background environment such as foliage, snow or sand.

Included in the complaint is a 2009 photo of Robertson wearing the camouflage gear and holding a rifle in the woods. Authorities say it shows his ability to conduct sniper tactics.

“While these postings are somewhat dated, they nevertheless show Robertson has access to a ghillie suit and a long-range rifle. Indeed, Robertson confirmed in his recent threat to kill President Biden from two days ago, that he will get out his “OLD GHILLIE SUIT” and “DUST OFF” his sniper rifle, thus indicating he has been in possession of these items for some time and is still in possession of these items,” the complaint says.

One post shows a photo of a nickel with hole through the head of Thomas Jefferson. Next to it is a card showing Robertson apparently fired the shot from 100 yards with a Remington rifle equipped with a scope in 1982.

“Well, I did it to Jefferson right on the temple. Bet I can do it to old Joey and save the world!!!” Robertson posted in March, the complaint says.

His social media posts also made threats against New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who filed criminal charges against former President Donald Trump for allegedly falsifying business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from voters before and after the 2016 election.

In March, Robertson wrote a threatening communication, saying “Heading to New York to fulfill my dream of iradicating (sic) another of George Soros two-but political hach (sic) DAs.”

What followed was a graphic description of lying in wait in a courthouse parking garage with a silenced 9mm handgun to shoot Bragg and then watch him die.

Shortly after that post, FBI agents confronted Robertson, who was wearing a dark suit with a lapel pin depicting an AR-15 style rifle and Trump hat, outside his home. According to the complaint, he admitted to owning the username attached to the social media post.

“When I advised Robertson that we would like to speak with him regarding a comment he had posted on Company-1’s social media platform, Robertson stated, ‘I said it was a dream!’ Robertson then said, ‘We’re done here! Don’t return without a warrant!’”

About a week after that interaction, according to the complaint, Robertson posted, “To my friends at the Federal Bureau of Idiots: I know you’re reading this and you have no idea how close your agents came to ‘bang.’”

He also wrote: “The FBI tried to interfere with my free speech right in my driveway. My 45ACP was ready to smoke ’em!!!”

Robertson also posted about “patriotic dreams” he had of standing over the bodies of California Gov. Gavin Newsome “with a wound above his brow and my S&W M&P 9mm still smoking” and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “with a bullet hole dead center in his forehead,” the complaint says.

Robertson also made threats on social media against Vice President Kamala Harris and New York Attorney General Letitia James, according to the complaint.

The complaint says Robertson made multiple threats against Biden on social media such as “The time is right for a presidential assassination or two. First Joe then Kamala!!!”

Politics on and off social media

Neighbors described Robertson as the “teddy bear” of their neighborhood congregation. They say he was “barely mobile,” to the point where he would drive to church, which is hardly 200 yards away from his house.

He was known, they said, for his talent as a woodworker. He would let neighbors borrow his tools, and built intricate coffee tables, rocking chairs and more.

People in the community knew he was a gun collector, but he wasn’t known to have a gun on him at all times. They described him as “discreet.”

“If he carried, we never knew about it,” Clark said. “We all knew he had guns, that he collected guns ... but I mean, it’s Utah.”

Neighbors said he would occasionally make “off-color” political remarks, but nothing that sounded violent. Some neighbors were surprised to learn the specifics of his Facebook posts, and said that his online persona was different from the man they knew.

“I’m sorry, I just think he was an old kook shooting his mouth off. He would occasionally tell us an off-color political joke from time to time. But there was nothing he ever did that would have made me think that he was either mentally or physically capable of doing anything. And anybody who knew him knew that,” said Clark. “I just can’t believe that this man warranted that kind of response.”

Robinson said he had seen some of Robertson’s Facebook posts, “stuff about politics, about Joe Biden, and threats to Joe Biden and things like that.” 

“I don’t really care who’s president, I don’t think it’s cool to make threats like that, whether they’re legitimate threats or not,” Robinson said. “Again, Craig, I would say, is a big story teller and likes the attention of big stories. So a man that sits at home all day, doesn’t have much to do, if he’s on his phone and is involved in politics and has strong political opinions, I’m not surprised that he would make posts like that to try to receive attention. I’m just hoping that the FBI has some more evidence besides Facebook posts to want to raid his house like they did.” 

Rollins described Robertson as anti-government. 

“From what I knew he was a veteran, but I know that he was anti-government,” she said. “He did not like if Provo City had to come do something in his yard. He was totally against that … and he didn’t like the police to come to his house.”

In a statement, an FBI spokesperson said the shooting, which happened around 6:15 a.m., occurred when agents attempted to serve a search warrant at the home. A large law enforcement presence was gathered Wednesday at a home in a cul-de-sac near 400 North and 1170 West.

According to ABC News, one of the officials they spoke to said the investigation began in April and the U.S. Secret Service was notified by the FBI in June. The official told ABC News the individual was under investigation for threatening posts, including suggesting online he was preparing to take physical action. The official said the threats had been deemed “credible.”

The shooting incident will be reviewed by the FBI’s Inspection Division, according to the agency statement.

“The FBI takes all shooting incidents involving our agents or task force members seriously,” the statement read.

Contributing: Katie McKellar, Tad Walch

Law enforcement investigate at the scene of a shooting in Provo involving the FBI.
Law enforcement investigate at the scene of a shooting in Provo involving the FBI Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News