Man arrested over alleged threat to Colorado's top election official

(Reuters) - Colorado state police arrested a man accused of threatening the state's top election official, court records showed on Friday, the first such detention since authorities began strengthening laws on election-related threats last year.

Kirk Wertz, 52, was arrested on Wednesday night and placed in Denver's jail, the records show. He faces a felony charge of "retaliation" against an elected official.

On the morning of June 30, the office of Secretary of State Jena Griswold received a threat from a caller, according to Griswold's office.

"Hey, I've got a message for the Secretary and I want you to pass it along: The angel of death is coming for her in the name of Jesus Christ," Griswold's office said the caller stated.

The arrest is the first for an election-related threat since Colorado lawmakers in May 2021 passed legislation criminalizing retaliation against elected officials.

State officials added further protections this year following a Reuters series of investigative reports documenting a nationwide wave of threats and harassment against election officials by supporters of former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Griswold, a Democrat, said in a statement that threats were being used to intimidate election officials "in an effort to destabilize democracy."

"The wave of violent threats directed at election officials and workers across the county is extremely concerning," Griswold added.

Wertz did not have a lawyer listed on the court documents and efforts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Carolyn Tyler, the communications director for the Denver District Attorney's Office, said she was not immediately able to provide guidelines for the punishment Wertz could face.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Jason Szep and Jonathan Oatis)