Michigan State Police mishandled death threat against her, Detroit State Rep. Cynthia Johnson says

January 09, 2021, 8:26 AM

State Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, feels victimized twice by a death threat.

After "two threatening calls made about me to another representative's office" Dec. 12, the Michigan State Police didn't investigate the self-identified caller, she posts on social media.

Rep. Cynthia Johnson: "It pisses me off." (Photo: House Democrats)

That suspect, Michael Varrone of Charlotte, now is accused of terrorism and other felony charges after allegedly calling in a fake bomb threat Thursday morning to the state Capitol and threatening to kill Johnson and her family last month. The 48-year-old was arrested Thursday outside his home about 20 miles southwest of Lansing.

"MSP got caught sweeping a threat under the rug," Johnson says Friday night on Facebook, adding:

MSP dropped the ball. ... I demand a full investigation. ...

The Capitol Police sent the report to MSP. Why was this guy not arrested immediately? The guy's full name, phone number, address and picture were sent to the MSP on December 16, 2020. They did nothing and attempted to throw Sgt. Dickson under the bus.

Michael Varrone (Photo: Michigan State Police)

The second-term lawmaker refers to Sergeant-at-Arms David D. Dickson, Jr., the House's chief security officer who relayed a threat report. 

"MSP attempted to blame Sgt. Dickson for not investigating this case when [he] has no jurisdiction," Johnson posts. "As a Black person, it pisses me off that Black people are often dismissed or blamed for actions or inactions of others. Why is that?"

The Detroit lawmaker told the Free Press on Friday: "If I was a white woman I think this would be handled a little differently."

David D. Dickson, Jr. became House sergeant-at-arms in 2003 after 25 years on Lansing's police force. (Photo: Michigan Manual)

A state police spokeswoman, Shannon Banner, tells Michigan Advance that it believed Capitol Police would investigate the two calls about Johnson to the office of Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Grattan Township:

"There was no request from the House sergeants for MSP to initiate any type of investigation or to become involved/assist in their investigation of him or the threats against Representative Johnson. ...

"The December 15 communication to us from the House sergeant about Varrone was not a request for an investigation; it was provided solely for our situational awareness," Banner said.

Varrone reportedly told investigators he was upset that Rep. Johnson called out "Trumpers" in an online video after racist threats against her.

He was arraigned Friday in a Lansing district court on two counts of threatening of terrorism, a 20-year felony, and one count of falsely reporting a bomb, a four-year felony. A magistrate set bond at $50,000 cash. The defendant, still in Lansing City Jail, is due back in court Jan. 22.

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