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Monday, April 19, 2021

Man Posts Threats against Wichita Mayor and Police Chief, Is Released on Bond

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The Wichita man who said he posted a violent threat against Mayor Jeff Longwell and police chief Gordon Ramsay this week after seeing them wearing face masks posted bond Wednesday.

The man who posted the threats on social media was charged with harassment and for reporting a hoax, said Melinda Cantu, a spokeswoman for Longwell, who was wearing a face mask when she met with Cantu and Ramsay after she received the threat on Tuesday. Cantu was wearing a mask herself to protect her identity, she said.

Spencer Pederson, 26, was charged with misdemeanor harassment, said his attorney, Mark Potok. Potok said Pederson was drinking heavily on the night of the arrest and made comments that had a racist component, but that he would not elaborate on the comment.

Pederson was released on $25,000 bond on Wednesday, according to state records. On Thursday, he posted bail.

“I do believe he was given the benefit of the doubt,” Potok said. “I just don’t think that reasonable doubt is a great deal to lean on. I think the substance is important here, and we’re trying to verify that.”

Potok described Pederson, who faces a maximum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, as a “psychologically unstable individual” who had put the city at risk.

“This man’s erratic actions are not what one would call remotely consistent with what he was saying,” Potok said.

Prosecutors are recommending that Pederson be tried on misdemeanor harassment and gross abuse of public office, a gross abuse of public office specification, or both, said Cara Martin, a spokeswoman for the city.

Cantu said the city’s top priority was protecting the officers on patrol.

“The bottom line is: These masks were much bigger than I would like to wear,” Cantu said. “I feel relatively safe while I’m out here.”

Lawrence Stillwell, the city’s chief of police, said the department was taking the threat seriously.

“The reality is with our race relations in America, when you see a person with a mask, you get anxious, you get scared,” Stillwell said. “Obviously it goes to a lot of things and could affect the city on so many levels. We take it very seriously.”

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