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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Local contractor arrested for threatening Gainesville city commissioners

Terry Martin-Back warned elected officials that he would inflict harm upon them if they eliminated inclusionary voting

A local contractor was arrested Monday for threatening to harm Gainesville City Commission members over Facebook and in an email.

Terry Martin-Back, a 68-year-old Gainesville resident, was booked into the Alachua County Jail around 4 p.m. Monday. He’s being charged with written threats to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism, according to his arrest warrant.

Martin-Back’s threats began with a Facebook post Friday night.

“I'm about to lose control of my PTSD with the City of Gainesville elected Commissioners. When I see them in public, I don't think I will be able to control my actions... You have a choice... stop me or join in.”

Some people expressed support for Martin-Back in the comment section.

Martin-Back followed up on the thread less than an hour after his initial Facebook message. He wrote an email to elected officials, “advising” them that his post traumatic stress disorder may set in after the election, causing him or members of the public to “pull them out of an establishment and beat their a– if they vote for inclusionary zoning.”

Court records show Martin-Back sent an email to the City Commission on Friday at 6:58 p.m.

“I hope I’m first in line and my combat emotional stress kicks in and I can take [it] all out on your face!!” the email wrote.

On Aug. 5, the Gainesville City Commission eliminated exclusionary zoning in a 4-3 vote, amending occupancy and bedroom limits; the ordinance is pending a second vote. Some commissioners said the effort will help solve the city’s affordable housing crisis, allowing developers to build two-story multifamily units in residential areas.

In reference to Martin-Back’s attacks, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe took to Twitter Tuesday, writing Martin-Back’s arrest was the second arrest this year of a person threatening violence against him for doing his job. 

Ryan Isaiah Odum, 22, was arrested April 14 for making a death threat in an email to Poe, describing a conflict between him and the city that could become “extremely bloody and deadly,” according to court records.

“I am relieved that no one was hurt or killed, but we must do better,” Poe wrote on Twitter. “We can disagree without being disagreeable. Our city is far too resilient to be ruined or destroyed by any one decision.”

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Police went to Martin-Back’s house in northwest Gainesville Monday to investigate his threats, according to court records.

When police explained to Martin-Back the reason for the visit was because of an email he sent, he replied that he hoped “somebody drags [the elected officials] out” and “kicks their butt,” court records show.

“We have elected officials that do not even listen to the citizens of the City of Gainesville,” he said in the court records.

Martin-Back swung at police when asked if his threats to elected officials were just verbal attacks.

“Did I say I was going to physically do this immediately?” he asked. “Did I say I was going to do this today?”

To go after someone right now would be a felony, he said, according to the report. "But once they are a public citizen, I can get in their face.”

In response to the police officer’s request for clarification as to whether he was going to commit violence against elected officials, according to court records, Martin-Back responded with, “Not tonight, I’m not.”

Martin-Back was an Army combat veteran, he told police, referring to his PTSD comments.

Gainesville Police Chief Inspector Jamie Kurnick said the department supports the right to free speech, but said it has limitations when it puts others in direct danger.

“There’s a line between being able to have your opinion and then threatening to harm someone,” she said.

Contact Lily Kino at Follow her on Twitter @lily_kino.

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Lily Kino

Lily is a third-year journalism major with a concentration in environmental science covering criminal justice for The Alligator. Last semester, she served as the Santa Fe reporter. When she's not writing, you can find Lily on a nature walk, eating Domino's Pizza or spending time with her friends.

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