“You’re such a hateful tramp Laura! Since your a Republican and love guns so much, than maybe we should shoot you and that ugly ass family of yours straight in the face.”
This line, complete with its original spelling and usage errors, is among the warnings allegedly sent to Colorado Senator Laura Woods by 21-year-old Dylan Hopkins — and unlike so much vile online communication, the message wasn't sent anonymously. Indeed, Hopkins went well beyond hashtags such as #BulletToTheFace and #KillYourself when he wrote, “I live in Arvada so if you come here I will grant you and your family a bullet straight to the head!”
As such, authorities had no problem tracking down Hopkins, who is currently free on a $1,000 bond after spending much of the weekend behind bars on suspicion of harassment.
In the meantime, Woods, who's running for reelection in District 19, is speaking out about being on the receiving end of the hateful threats.
"I got the message on Saturday morning," September 17, Woods notes. "I was in a town hall meeting — and when the town hall was over, I met with my campaign staff first to figure out what to do next. Then I went home and met with my husband to keep him in the loop — and then I went down to the Arvada Police Department to make a report."
A member of Woods's campaign team also contacted the Colorado State Patrol, "and those two agencies combined, at least in their communication," she continues. "Then, at about 5 p.m. on Saturday, I heard from the Arvada police officer who took the report that they went to his house, talked to him and decided to arrest and charge."
Did Hopkins mean his words literally? Woods can't be certain — but in the end, she couldn't simply shrug them off.
"I live with my husband, and we also have one of our sons and a daughter-in-law and two little grandchildren who live in our home with us," she points out. "And this threat terrified my heart to think about any of them being caught in this."
She adds that another of Hopkins's message "was a threat against my campaign volunteers: moms and dads who often teach their kids about politics by taking them out to knock on doors with them. These are elementary- and middle-school children. So I would think any citizen should take something like this seriously and respond like I did to protect their family and others around them. This is not something that should be taken lightly."
Woods thinks police intervention at this stage can help everyone — including the person who's busted.
"Think back to some of the major tragedies in our society," she says. "Before that tragedy occurred, was the guy behind them just someone who vented on a blog or on Facebook or kept a journal that someone missed? You think about catching things like this early — and by doing so, maybe we can prevent a bigger incident."
In the meantime, she goes on, "I would hope that anyone between the ages of ten and 25 — and this guy is 21 — would really pay attention to things like this that are happening. The sexting, the bullying in school, the online threats: We need to understand that there could be serious consequences down the road. And as citizens, we're all tagged with the responsibility to keep our community safe. If reporting about this benefits the entire community, I would be grateful."
Despite being a public figure, Woods acknowledges that "I haven't experienced anything like this before — and it's been a tough few days. I'm very grateful for the law enforcement response. And now I can go back to campaigning."
Look below to see Dylan Hopkins's booking photo.