This article originally appeared on VICE US.
A Florida trucker was arrested for allegedly plotting to shoot up a church in Memphis, Alabama — the fourth arrest of a potential mass shooter in under a week.
FBI agents arrested Thomas McVicker, 38, on Monday when he was passing through Indianapolis, after they were tipped off by one of his longtime friends earlier this month about his alleged plot. The friend, a woman who lives in Fairhope, Alabama, contacted the FBI after a text exchange with McVicker in which he extensively discussed carrying out a mass shooting and weighed whether to target a church or shoot people randomly on the street.
That text conversation came less than a week after the United States experienced a spate of three mass shootings that left a combined total of 34 people dead. Since those shootings, a flurry of arrests of would-be mass shooters have dominated national headlines, shedding light on the pervasiveness of violent ideation in the U.S. and the phenomenon of copycatting.
According to federal court documents, the friend asked McVicker why he wanted to kill innocent people. “They put spiritual snakes and spiders in my bed at night,” McVicker replied, according to the documents. “I’ve only seen them a couple of times, but they take form and I can feel them crawling on me and under me.”
The friend advised McVicker to seek help, but he was defiant, saying, “I’m going to be gone forever soon.”
McVicker comes from Punta Gorda in southwest Florida. FBI investigators interviewed his mother, who still lives there, on August 12, who confirmed that he’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia and on medication. His mother also told FBI agents that he owned a semi-automatic pistol and sometimes used cocaine and methamphetamine. She also recalled that her son had told her he’d planned to take the day off work on August 22.
Days after agents interviewed McVicker’s mother, his friend called them back, saying she’d just talked to him on the phone. During their conversation, she said he spoke “erratically” and said he was going to “shoot up a church” when he was in Memphis on August 22. He didn’t offer an exact location, but also mentioned that he planned to “slit the pastor’s throat.”
The FBI arrested McVicker Monday and charged him with transmission of “interstate commerce messages” from various locations within the U.S. to Fairhope “that contain clear threats to conduct a mass shooting and suicide.” Florida has a “red flag law” in place that allows local authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from anyone deemed by law enforcement to be a threat to themselves or others. According to his mother, McVicker lives in his truck, which is outside of Punta Gorda Police Department’s jurisdiction, according to a spokesperson. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to VICE News’ inquiry.
According to the FBI, making interstate threats via texts or phone calls is a violation of federal law. If found guilty, McVicker could face up to five years in federal prison.
Public records indicate that McVicker was previously in the U.S. Navy.
McVicker was the fourth white male arrested for allegedly plotting a mass shooting in the U.S. in under a week. Police or the FBI also made similar arrests in Volusia County, Florida, New Middletown, Ohio, and Norwalk, Connecticut.
Cover: This Aug. 4, 2019 file photo shows shoes piled outside the scene of a mass shooting around Ned Peppers bar that killed multiple people in Dayton, Ohio. The FBI has labeled two of those attacks, at a Texas Walmart and California food festival, as domestic terrorism — acts meant to intimidate or coerce a civilian population and affect government policy. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)