DODGE CITY, Kan. — Several investigators have concluded that angry emails about mask requirements that prompted a Kansas mayor to resign did not directly threaten her safety.
Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw resigned Tuesday. She said she did not feel safe continuing in the role because of threatening communications she received after she was quoted in a USA Today article supporting the city's mask mandate in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dodge City investigators, the city prosecutor and the Ford County prosecutor reviewed three emails sent to Warshaw before concluding they were not threats against her. They said the man who sent the emails supports mask mandates and was frustrated that the city hadn't acted faster to fight the virus.
The emails had only summary lines with the messages, “You and your city council should be tried for murder;” “History will scorn you;” and “There is a good chance you and your commissioners will burn in hell,” according to a summary of the investigation released Wednesday.
“No specific, direct, or implied threat was directed at Mayor Warshaw. The text contained in the subject lines were more in line with an individual’s opinion rather than a threat,” detective Sgt. James Thompson wrote in the summary.
City prosecutor Mark Cowell and Ford County Attorney Kevin Salzman agreed with that opinion.
Salzman said there were no threats directly implying an act to commit violence, such as “You’ll get yours” or “watch your back.”
Investigators determined the emails were sent by a John Brawner from Kentucky, The Dodge City Daily Globe reported.
Thompson said Brawner acknowledged sending the emails after he “had a few beers” and read the article about Dodge City's COVID-19 infections. He said he had underlying health conditions and was frustrated people were not wearing masks.
Brawner also said he felt the city commission should have acted sooner — it passed the mask mandate on Nov. 16 — and that his emails were not intended to be threats.
Kentucky law enforcement officers found no records to raise concern about possible violence from Brawner, Thompson said.
“I am very happy these three emails were found to be non-threatening although I still received verbal and other forms of communication that I found troubling and concerning,” Warshaw said Thursday. “Initially, when I received these emails with all others, I felt like they were from someone in Dodge City that created a false email account to send them.”
The city's counsel, Brad Ralph, said it is never appropriate to send abusive communications to elected officials who are trying to do their best in difficult situations.
“But the city is also relieved to determine that the communications in question did not originate from any citizens of Dodge City or even Kansas residents, and were, in essence, an attempt to express displeasure with the fact that the city did not adopt a mask protocol sooner,” Ralph said.