A Pentagon cybersecurity contractor has been charged with threatening to kill a member of Congress over the introduction of a bill that would require public schools to vaccinate children, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Maryland.
Darryl Albert Varnum of Westminster, Maryland called the congressperson—identified only as “congressperson #1”—on June 28, 2019, according to the complaint, and left a voicemail threatening to kill the member if the bill was introduced.
“I’m gonna kill your ass if you do that bill. I swear,” Varnum’s voicemail began. “I will fucking come down and kill your fucking ass. And you’re a Congressperson, that’s fine. I hope the fucking FBI, CIA and everybody else hears this shit.”
“This is the United States of America, bitch. Get the fuck out,” the voicemail continued. “I’ll tell you what I’ll come down to Miami bitch. I’ll fuck you up. Like the Cubans don’t even know.”
Though the name of the member targeted is not listed in the complaint, The Daily Beast has learned that the Varnum’s death threat was directed at Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). According to the complaint, the voicemail was left at the congresswoman’s Florida office. And Varnum’s tirade centered on The Vaccinate All Children Act, legislation introduced by Wilson in May. The bill would require all public schools to vaccinate all their students in order to receive any federal funding. It exempts from the requirement any student whose doctor certifies that a vaccination might endanger the child’s health.
Wilson’s office referred inquires about the threat to the U.S. Capitol Police.
On his Facebook page, Varnum compared The Vaccinate All Children Act to the Holocaust—a common trope used by vaccine skeptics. “I’m done with this bullshit. Time to step up or ship out,” he wrote. In a comment on that post, Varnum added, “All of our guns are next. Been trying for years!”
The complaint notes that Varnum is a current employee of Sealing Technology. Law enforcement agents from the U.S. Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service advised that he currently works at the Defense Information Systems Agency as a part of a contract between Sealing and DISA.
A LinkedIn page appearing to belong to Varnum says he is “a senior cyber systems engineer.”
According to the complaint, Varnum’s wife previously told police that he owns “numerous guns.” He has registered just one: a .45 caliber Ruger pistol. His wife’s statement came in the course of another law enforcement encounter in 2015. Carroll County sheriff's deputies responded to a call from Varnum’s wife, who reported that her husband was having “behavioral issues.” When police arrived, an intoxicated Varnum had holed up in his garage with a rifle and a bottle of vodka, insisting that Taliban militants were en route to his house.
Police said Varnum was “cooperative and non-violent” during that interaction, and he was transported to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
Neither DISA nor Sealing responded to questions about their knowledge of that 2015 encounter, or of his more recent arrest.
The is not the first time that Wilson has been on the receiving end of death threats. Following the 2017 death of her constituent Army Srgt. La David Johnson in an ambush in Niger under mysterious circumstances, Wilson was critical of President Donald Trump for botching a condolence call to Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeisha.
“What he said was, ‘I guess he knew what he was signing up for but it still hurts.’ That’s how he said it,’” Wilson told The New York Times in an interview at the time.
Wilson added that the president appeared to not know Johnson’s name, referring to him as ‘your guy’ throughout the three to five minute conversation.
Though Myeisha Johnson later came forward and confirmed Wilson’s account, Trump denied it. His then-chief of staff John Kelly subsequently lashed out at Wilson, by stating falsely that she’d tried to take credit for securing federal funds for an FBI building and calling her an “empty barrel.”
In the aftermath, Wilson’s office was flooded with threats ranging from “racist and rude to outright menacing,” her spokeswoman told the Washington Post at the time. The Post noted as a result of the threats, Wilson had a security detail in her district and the U.S. Capitol Police monitored her office in Washington.
With reporting by Will Sommer and Adam Rawnsley