An Illawarra man found with a gun and bullets stashed in his house is alleged to have conducted internet searches on mass public shootings in America two months before sending his mother a series of chilling text messages threatening to murder his “bullies”.
Liam Johnson, 25, has been behind bars since his arrest in mid-July, however was granted conditional bail in court on Tuesday – with the consent of counter terrorism police.
Acting on a tip off, police raided Johnson’s Horsley home on the afternoon of May 21, discovering a Winchester lever-action 30-30 rifle, accompanying ammunition and a gun cleaning kit hidden in his bedroom.
Johnson admitted ownership of the gun when questioned by police, telling them he’d bought the firearm from an unnamed man for $900 to use for “for self-protection”.
Police also discovered 3.17 grams of methamphetamine and $915 in cash at the house, prompting them to confiscate Johnson’s mobile phone.
A subsequent search of the phone revealed text messages implicating Johnson in a series of drug deals.
However, police will allege a browse of Johnson’s internet search history revealed his involvement in a more alarming past-time.
Court documents said police who forensically examined Johnson’s phone discovered he had spent an hour the previous night googling recent mass American killings, including the Boston marathon bombing and the Santa Fe school massacre.
Johnson was granted bail at the time and served with a firearms prohibition order.
However, the court heard he got a new phone in June and over the space of three days in July, sent his mother a series of disturbing text messages.
“Yep, cool, I will catch one at Oak Flats and if anyone f—ks with me on the train I will put a blade through their neck,” he allegedly wrote on July 16.
The following day he allegedly sent another text message reading “i can’t wait to prove to everyone that I’m not f—king around and start f—king everyone up badly that’s hurt me and put me down….not long now, It’s going to get seriously dangerous. Gotta go.”
Two further messages were sent on July 18 within minutes of each other.
In the first message sent at 12.05pm, Johnson allegedly wrote “Every single person that has bullied me and stood over me are (sic) going to be begging for their life very soon.”
Then at 12.08pm: “It’s going to be one of the most cold, calculated cases of murder you have ever seen. I gotta go, bye.”
Johnson was arrested by officers attached to the Fixated Persons Investigation Unit – an arm of the state’s Counter Terrorism Command – just before 3pm that afternoon and charged with two using a carriage service to kill and using a carriage service to threaten serious harm.
When questioned by police, he allegedly told them he sent the messages to his mum to get her attention, but never intended to act on the threats.
He also claimed his internet search from May had been prompted by watching a documentary on Netflix and that it was “normal” to look for further information about the shootings/terrorism acts.
In documents written at the time of Johnson’s arrest, investigating police said they had concerns about Johnson’s claim to have been bullied by unnamed persons, his ability to obtain an unregistered firearm, his interest in public place shootings and his anger management.
However, in court on Tuesday, the prosecutor said police involved in the case had agreed to allow Johnson strict conditional bail.
As part of his bail requirements, Johnson must live at the Horsley address with his mother, report to police daily, attend a pre-arranged mental health assessment and take any medication prescribed to him by a doctor.
He has also been from accessing the internet while on bail and must show his mobile phone to police for inspection upon request.
Johnson had formally pleaded guilty to the firearm and drug offences however not guilty to the carriage service charges.
His case has been set down for hearing in February next year.