Veterans Services Center employee arrested after threatening president

2014-04-07T17:07:00Z 2014-07-01T16:28:03Z Veterans Services Center employee arrested after threatening presidentBy PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic The Billings Gazette
April 07, 2014 5:07 pm  • 

HAMILTON — A Valley Veterans Service Center employee has been arrested by the U.S. Secret Service for threatening the president following an investigation that temporarily closed the Hamilton-based organization.

Dan Rachell, 43, of Darby, was arrested late last week on two federal charges of threats against President Barack Obama and his family.

The Secret Service began its investigation on March 24 after being contacted by a veteran concerned about Rachell’s alleged threats to the president, according to a 13-page affidavit filed in the case.

The veteran also told the investigator that Rachell had become verbally abusive toward him and threatened to “smash (his) skull in” because he currently serves in the Montana National Guard.

The veteran said he stepped forward with the information because he believed Rachell’s post-traumatic stress disorder may be worsening and it appeared he had started a “downward spiral” that could lead to an attempt on the president’s life, the affidavit said.

When Rachell’s alleged rants toward the president became more severe, the veteran said he contacted the center’s board of directors. The board responded by closing the office, placing its two employees on paid administrative leave and hiring labor attorney Michelle Puiggari to investigate.

Puiggari told the Secret Service her investigation yielded enough information for a recommendation that Rachell’s employment be terminated.

After hearing the veteran’s story, Puiggari advised the veteran to contact the Secret Service.

The veteran told a Secret Service investigator that Rachell said he had trained his wife to be a “spotter” and to assist him in an assassination attempt by providing “suppression fire” should the president ever visit Hamilton.

The veteran said Rachell went to “great lengths to explain how he has trained his wife on the rifle range, specifically the Whittacar Rifle Range, to shoot a rifle using a scope, to provide service as a spotter at a distance, or provide suppressive fire to relocate from one position to another in case his first attack triggers a response by police so he can relocate to another position.”

Rachell allegedly told the veteran he had enough ammunition to kill everyone in Hamilton.

The veteran said Rachell was a racist and used racial slurs toward the president and first family. The affidavit said the veteran said Rachell stated that someone needed to “kill Michelle and the kids to save the taxpayers money because they fly around on Air Force One all the time.”

The Secret Service investigated Rachel in 2011 for threats against the president after his ex-wife reported that he had been stockpiling weapons and was en route to kill her and another ex-wife, according to the affidavit.

The woman told officers then that Rachell had made threats toward the president. A psychiatric evaluation determined that Rachell was suffering from PTSD and major depression.

Service center's actions

Valley Veterans Service Center board chair Bill Jette said the board has accepted Rachell’s resignation letter.

Jette said the board decided to move forward with an investigation after receiving several reports from veterans who complained about their treatment by Rachell.

He urged veterans who had signed over their power of attorney to Rachell to contact the center as soon as possible.

“The center’s employees can help explain how to revoke that power of attorney,” Jette said. “We are trying to do our best to stay out in front of this.”

As a result of the investigation, Jette said the board has decided that weapons will no longer be allowed inside the veterans center building.

Rachell obtained a concealed weapons permit and had started to carry a weapon, even while working, said the affidavit.

“We didn’t think it was an issue before,” he said. “We want to make sure that we cover all the bases and make sure that everyone feels safe and their privacy is protected.”

The center is currently operating on its normal hours.

“Now we can get on with our mission to care for the veterans of the county,” Jette said. “We have no idea where this will end for Dan (Rachell), but we do want people to know that we are open and supporting our county and all of its veterans again.”

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