'Fire to burn': Criminologist warns Trump supporters could react violently if he is indicted
Donald Trump (Photo of Trump via Agence France-Presse)

On Thursday, August 11 — three days after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in South Florida — a Donald Trump supporter was killed during a violent confrontation with law enforcement. The armed suspect, identified by the Washington Post as 42-year-old Ricky Shiffer, unsuccessfully tried to breach an FBI field office in Cincinnati; after fleeing the premises, he was pursued by law enforcement agents and died during a shootout near Wilmington, Ohio.

The FBI agents who searched Mar-a-Lago were looking for classified government documents. Shiffer, according to the Post, had posted anti-FBI messages on Trump’s social media platform Truth Social before the attack — writing “kill the enemy” and “If you don't hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I." In an official statement on August 11, the FBI’s Cincinnati office noted, “The subject shot at law enforcement officers. During the incident, law enforcement also fired their weapons.”

Criminologist Brian Levin discussed the potential for more violence during a Friday night, August 12 appearance on CNN. Levin, who serves as director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, fears that violent attacks by Trump supporters could escalate if the former president faces some type of indictment.

READ MORE: Fox News guest calls Mar-a-Lago search 'a preemptive coup'

Levin told CNN’s Kim Brunhuber, “As this heats up, where there's a certain event, an indictment — we're not saying it's happening — but if it does, that will cause this fire to burn more. The kindling is already out there, and we are quite concerned because this kind of stuff heats up and gets more directed as we go down that trail as to what's going to happen with respect to a possible criminal prosecution of the former president.”

Brunhuber noted all the angry, over-the-top rhetoric that has been coming from Republican politicians and far-right media figures following the FBI’s August 8 search at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump has been living since leaving the White House on January 20, 2021. When Brunhuber asked Levin if “right politicians and media figures…. just don't care about the consequences of stoking political violence,” Levin responded, “I don't think they care. And we had reams of data showing that both hate crimes, extremist plots and including homicides, go up downstream around this kind of rhetoric.”

Levin continued, “What this does is it labels certain groups and individuals as legitimate targets of aggression. But sometimes, that aggression is manifest as what we're seeing online in this firehose of insults, epithets and conspiracy theories…. For some, they're gonna act on it either individually or in a more organized fashion.”

Levin added that according to FBI data, the “worst day for hate crimes” occurred in 2019 after the U.S. House of Representatives indicted then-President Trump on articles of impeachment.

READ MORE: Kamala Harris condemns GOP rhetoric and attempted attack on FBI field office