PORT ORCHARD — A Kent man who on Thursday evening posted allegedly threatening comments on the Kitsap Sun’s Facebook page about a former Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputy — recently cleared by a federal jury of using excessive force — was arrested the next day by Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies.
Michael Charles Martin, 27, was charged Monday in Kitsap County Superior Court with felony harassment and is being held on $50,000 bail in the Kitsap County Jail. His bail was initially set at $250,000.
Former Deputy Matthew Hill, the subject of the story posted Dec. 7 on the Kitsap Sun's Facebook page, was sued in U.S. District Court for a 2014 incident where he entered a house and subdued the wrong man while pursuing a suspect in a high-speed chase. The man Hill subdued, Frank Fuller, sued Hill and the Sheriff's Office. A jury found on Dec. 1 that Hill had not used excessive force. Hill left his position in 2016 due to injuries sustained in the line of duty, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The Facebook comments attributed to Martin, which were critical of law enforcement's actions in the Fuller matter, said: "He's a terrorist, and should be executed." The comments attributed to Martin also said: "His name is Matthew Hill" and asks "What is his address?"
When another commenter questioned why he wanted Hill's address, Martin allegedly wrote: "So I know where to stay away from, of course." The comments then read: "Or maybe I can get a shiny badge, break into his house and get away with assaulting and kidnapping him?"
Hill told deputies he felt “threatened and terrified” for his and his family’s safety, according to charging documents.
A meme also posted on the Kitsap Sun's Facebook page under Martin's account, and included in court documents, suggested: “The only good cop is a dead cop.” The words were placed on a photo believed to be of the casket of Washington State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu, according to documents. In 2012 Radulescu was shot and killed while on patrol in Kitsap County. Above the meme, Martin allegedly wrote: "This cop should be put down."
After detectives tracked down Martin through “investigative resources,” one detective asked Martin about the posts, "If he meant anything by them." The detective quoted Martin saying: “I did not mean anything" and he thought it was ridiculous. Martin then asked for an attorney and was placed under arrest.
Martin’s Facebook profile shows a number of anti-government and anti-law enforcement posts and photos, according to court documents, along with images associated with “anarchist capitalist” ideology such as the phrase "taxation is theft."
Investigators wrote Martin had "a history of assaultive behavior," saying he has been accused of making threats with a knife on a bus in King County as well as a road rage incident where Martin threatened to shoot a woman and pounded on the hood of her vehicle.
The Kitsap Sun was only able to confirm Tuesday that Martin pleaded guilty in 2010 to a count of possession of a dangerous weapon in King County Superior Court for the bus incident. He was accused of displaying a knife during an argument with another passenger over opening a window. Martin was sentenced to 40 hours of community service.
Martin's Facebook comments were brought to the attention of Kitsap Sun staff on Thursday night. They were hidden from public view after a reporter and an editor agreed they were inappropriate.
Hostile and crude comments are not unusual for social media discourse. The Kitsap Sun does not review all comments made on its website or Facebook page, but it will review and consider removal of inappropriate comments brought to the attention of staff.
Deputy Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the office, said there was no conflict of interest in having Hill’s former agency investigate the posts as Hill no longer worked for the Sheriff’s Office.
Wilson said deputies investigate cases of online comments, but it was the "totality of circumstances" that led to Martin's arrest. Wilson listed Martin’s criminal history as given in court documents, the anti-law enforcement and anti-government posts on Martin's Facebook account as well as the hostile comments themselves and the effect they had on Hill.
“We made the decision this was a credible threat and we had to act accordingly and check it out,” Wilson said, noting that deputies had consulted with prosecutors before contacting Martin. “This was not done just as a knee-jerk reaction.”
Additional information has been added to this story since it was first published.