Authorities are investigating the motives of an armed man who they say tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office, fled and died hours later in a rural standoff with law enforcement, a case unfolding as the FBI warns agents to take extra precautions amid increased social media threats to its employees and facilities.
Officials have warned of a rise in threats against federal agents in the days following a search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
In the Cincinnati case, officials said a man tried to breach the visitor’s screening area at the FBI office Thursday morning and fled when agents confronted him. He was later spotted by a state trooper along Interstate 71 and fired shots as the trooper chased him, said Lt. Nathan Dennis, an Ohio State Highway Patrol spokesperson.
The suspect eventually got out of his car on a rural road, exchanged gunfire with police and was injured, Dennis said. No one else was hurt.
Attempted negotiations failed, and police tried unsuccessfully to use unspecified “less lethal tactics,” but the suspect was shot when he raised a gun toward officers, Dennis said. The man died at the scene.
Dennis said he couldn’t comment Thursday on whether the suspect said anything to officers during the standoff.
The man is believed to have been in Washington in the days leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and may have been present at the Capitol on the day of the attack, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The suspect was identified as Ricky Shiffer, 42, according to the law enforcement official. He was not charged with any crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, the official said. Federal investigators are examining whether Shiffer may have had ties to far-right extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, the official said.
There have been growing threats in recent days against FBI agents and offices across the country after federal agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. On Gab, a social media site popular with white supremacists and antisemites, users have warned they are preparing for an armed revolution.
Federal officials have also been tracking an array of other concerning chatter on Gab and other platforms threatening violence against federal agents. FBI Director Christopher Wray denounced the threats as he visited another FBI office in Nebraska on Wednesday.
“Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with,” Wray said Wednesday in Omaha.
The FBI on Wednesday also warned its agents to avoid potential protesters, and to ensure their security key cards are “not visible outside FBI space,” citing an increase in social media threats to bureau personnel and facilities.
The warning did not specifically mention this week’s search of Mar-a-Lago but attributed the online threats to “recent media reporting on FBI investigative activity.”
Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington and Jim Mustian in New York contributed to this report.
AP — ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and PATRICK ORSAGOS contributed to this report.