Man Who Threatened Florida Synagogue Had History of Cyberstalking

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Before he threatened to commit mass murder, Hanson Larkin had a pattern of cyberstalking and anti-Semitism, court records show. The Volusia County resident, who yesterday pleaded guilty to sending messages threatening to shoot up a synagogue, was first reported to police by a Hialeah resident who said he was being harassed by Larkin.

Larkin and the Hialeah man — identified only by his initials, L.R., in an FBI report — connected online more than a year ago but had never met in person. L.R. told police he had rejected Larkin’s unwanted romantic advances.

But Larkin felt entitled to L.R.’s affections and continued to harass him, according to court records. Over the summer, Larkin’s messages became increasingly menacing. Documents show he began expressing his hatred for the Jewish community and his desire to harm himself and others. Then, in August, he took an Amtrak train to Miami to show up at L.R.’s home unannounced.

“If meeting me for five seconds is not worth the lives of multiple Jews then I have no other option,” Larkin texted L.R. in late August, according to the FBI report. “I bought a gun with my first paycheck if I don’t meet you I will be forced to use it… There’s a Chabad near me. And Amtrak has no security for weapon [sic]. Don’t make me make a choice they’ll regret.”

One in four stalking victims each year has also experienced cyberstalking, according to statistics released by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Cyberstalking can take many different forms, including instilling fear in victims.

“I want to smell your fear,” Larkin texted L.R. after arriving in Miami uninvited. 

The relationship between gun violence and domestic violence is clear-cut, and activists have long advocated for stronger domestic violence laws that keep guns away from abusers. Something that has been less thoroughly addressed is the connection between mass shooters or would-be shooters and their obsessive fixations on desired partners. Rejection should not result in violence, but rejection and access to deadly weapons has historically proven to be a dangerous combination.

Journalist Jessica Valenti calls these crimes “rejection killings,” and she believes they should be tracked as a form of domestic violence. For example, the Parkland shooter obsessively texted a girl who rejected his advances, including the day of the 2018 massacre. And the 2014 Isla Vista shooter used his virginity to justify a murder spree at UC Santa Barbara, which included a mass shooting at a sorority house.

In the Florida case, the FBI investigation identified a number of Jewish houses of worship that might have been Larkin’s target, including one 2.5 miles from his home in DeLand and several throughout Miami-Dade County. On August 27, Larkin was arrested by local law enforcement in Volusia County. Yesterday he pleaded guilty to a felony for sending an interstate message that threatened to injure another person. He faces up to five years in prison in a sentencing hearing set for January.

Larkin was just one of six men in Volusia County arrested for threatening mass shootings in the same month.  

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