Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano. (Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

PITTSBURGH (Tribune News Service) — Federal agents arrested a Central Pennsylvania man for threatening to kill state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Franklin Republican, in a series of violent posts to Facebook earlier this month, authorities said Tuesday.

Among the threatening messages from Richard Little was a post Friday in which he tagged the 2022 Republican candidate for governor and vowed to skin him if he did not leave office.

“You ruin one more person, I will wear your [expletive] flesh,” Little wrote, according to federal court filings. “You are done. ... Leave now or don’t. But you will leave today, or you will not be found Monday, senator. Make your f------ choice.”

Little also appeared to threaten Republican Franklin County Commissioner Dean Horst and a sergeant major in the U.S. Army in a string of messages, photos, and videos publicly posted over a two-week period earlier this month, investigators said.

Some of them featured Little pacing through his home, identifying what he referred to as “kill zones” from which he outlined plans to attack authorities who might come to arrest him. The footage also featured Little showing off a small arsenal of weapons, including one he affectionately referred to as “the wonderful Donald Trumper.”

“I’m just going to be sitting here popping you motherf—,” Little said at one point in one of the videos, according to charging documents filed in the case. Boasting of hollow-tipped bullets he owned, Little continued: “That bullet is going to rip through them and spray blood through the boys.”

Little’s arrest comes as authorities have raised alarm over the rising number of violent threats lodged against public officials over the last several years — a sign officials say reflects a growing tolerance for political violence.

Since 2013, more than 500 defendants across the country, including more than 36 in Pennsylvania, have been charged with threatening lawmakers or local officials, according to research from the National Counterterrorism, Innovation, Technology, and Education Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The researchers tracked two significant spikes in such arrests — in 2017, following Donald Trump’s election as president, and again, starting in 2022, as the nation began to prepare for the 2024 presidential vote.

In Little’s case, Franklin County authorities believe his threats may have been prompted by an eviction notice he received June 10, the day they say he began posting his social media screeds.

They had responded to an earlier incident in April in which he allegedly threatened the director at the county’s Veterans Affairs Human Resource Building in Chambersburg and again threatened “to end” Horst, prosecutors said.

County investigators and the Pennsylvania State Police alerted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to the threatening Facebook messages last week, prompting Little’s arrest, which was first reported Friday by NewsTalk 103.7 FM, a conservative talk radio station based in Chambersburg.

Agents seized 10 firearms from Little’s bedroom, living room, and kitchen and various marijuana paraphernalia during a subsequent search of his home, investigators said.

A spokesperson for Mastriano declined to comment Tuesday, citing the ongoing investigation — as did Little’s attorney, federal public defender Ari D. Weitzman.

Little remains in federal custody under an order from a U.S. magistrate judge detaining him until his trial on charges of interstate communications threatening violence and unlawful possession of a firearm by a user of a controlled substance.

He faces up to 10 years in prison on the most serious count with which he has been charged.

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