A Florida woman is being held by federal authorities for allegedly making a series of threats to kill Vice President Kamala Harris.
Niviane Petit Phelps, 39, sent a series of videos to her husband in prison, expressing anger over the results of the 2020 election, according to a Secret Service complaint. Phelps also went as far as practicing at a gun range and applied for a concealed weapons permit, according to authorities.
Also fueling Phelps’ threats was her belief that Harris “isn’t actually Black,” according to the Secret Service complaint. Harris is Black and of South Asian descent.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on March 12, 2021, in the Rose Garden of the White House.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Phelps “knowingly and willfully made threats to kill and inflict bodily harm upon the Vice President of the United States in violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 871.”
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A nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Phelps was detained Thursday by a Miami federal magistrate judge after she was charged with making threats against Harris.
According to the complaint, Phelps threatened Harris in five videos and two photos from February in which she states that Harris will die, she will kill her and suggests a specific day.
Phelps is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami and if convicted, Phelps would face up to five years in prison. The judge who detained Phelps did so because they found her to be a “danger to the community,” according to the Miami Herald.
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“Based upon my limited knowledge, I do not think my client was a genuine threat to the vice president. All this case involved was my client venting to her incarcerated husband (where the communications were recorded and then forwarded to law enforcement),” Phelps’ attorney Scott Saul told the Herald in a statement.
Phelps was suspended from her job without pay from Jackson Health System, where she’s worked for 20 years. A Jackson Health System spokesperson said that Phelps would be terminated.
Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement grieving the loss of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by police during a Sunday traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb.
“Our hearts are heavy over yet another shooting of a Black man, Daunte Wright, at the hands of police,” the couple wrote in a joint statement. “It’s important to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but this is also a reminder of just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country,” they urged.
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Wright’s death took place just miles from where the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who faces murder charges in the death of George Floyd last May, is ongoing. The incident has again sparked outrage and grief in a community already grappling with the Chauvin trial.
“The fact that this could happen even as the city of Minneapolis is going through the trial of Derek Chauvin and reliving the heart-wrenching murder of George Floyd indicates not just how important it is to conduct a full and transparent investigation, but also just how badly we need to reimagine policing and public safety in this country,” the Obamas said.
The Obamas have spoken out on the killings of unarmed Black men by the police before, including during the former president’s time in office.
In 2014, after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the White House issued a statement calling the 18-year-old’s death “heartbreaking” and directed the Justice Department to investigate the situation.
In 2016, after the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota by police, then-President Obama called for national concern over the killings of unarmed black men by police.
“This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about,” Obama said. “All fair-minded people should be concerned.”
Last summer, in the wake of historic protests against racism and police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Obama wrote in a statement that the deaths of black people in police-involved shootings “shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America.”
“It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better,” Obama urged.