A Texas man who made videos of himself and his girlfriend stalking and harassing victims of the November 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting has been arrested on one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon.
Robert Ussery, 54, of Lockhart, Texas, who goes by the screen name "Side Thorn," was arrested at his home on 23 May 2018 by local, state and federal authorities, including the Wilson County Sheriff's Office, Texas Rangers and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Ussery filmed himself hiding a semi-automatic pistol under the floorboard of his car and telling his sidekick girlfriend, Jodi "Conspiracy Granny" Mann, to take responsibility for it.
According to the criminal complaint, Ussery is a convicted felon and is aware that as such he is prohibited from owning a firearm.
Ussery and Mann were initially arrested on 5 March 2018 for trespassing on the property of First Baptist Church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, which was the site of a massacre in which 26 people were killed. According to the criminal complaint they confronted pastor Frank Pomeroy and accused him of perpetuating the shooting "hoax." They also told Pomeroy that he was lying about his 14-year-old daughter Annabelle — who died in the shooting — saying the girl never existed. Ussery then "aggressively escalated the situation" by yelling at Pomeroy that "the people" would hang him by the neck. Ussery said he would then urinate on Pomeroy.
By happenstance, a Vice camera crew had accompanied the hoaxers on their trip to the massacre site to film footage for their April 2018 documentary, "The Rise of the Crisis Actor Conspiracy Movement." They captured the confrontation along with Ussery and Mann's arrest:
Ussery and Mann filmed the entire incident on Go-Pro cameras and captured Ussery placing a black and silver semiautomatic striker-fire pistol under the floor mat of the driver's seat of their pickup truck. The two are then heard having a conversation in which Ussery tells Mann where the gun is, and adds that it was hers. Wilson County Sheriff's deputies accessed the video with a search warrant after the couple's initial arrest, which provided the basis for Ussery's later arrest.
Sherri Pomeroy, Frank Pomeroy's wife, told us by phone that she felt a great sense of relief to learn Ussery was in custody again, telling us, "You don’t realize what a toll that takes on you, looking over your shoulder all the time." Pomeroy said neither she nor her husband knew Ussery was armed during the confrontation.
C.W. Wade, a researcher and journalist with HONR Network, an advocacy group that acts on behalf of families and victims of high profile crimes to shield them from hoaxer harassment, has been tracking Side Thorn and Conspiracy Granny for years and told us he has long believed Ussery to be a danger to the public:
No doubt he poses a vey real threat to the public, just based on his own statement when he went to Sutherland Springs. He blatantly tells you he’s coming to kill you, he’s coming to hang you. I think it’s very fair to take him at face value that when he says he wants to kill you, that’s what he intends to do.
When you start telling someone who lost their kid, 'I’m gonna hang you, show me the death certificate" — when you say that to a person straight to their face, that is a very high level of cruelty.
Wade told us Ussery has threatened him on more than one occasion. He showed us archives of social media posts Ussery wrote, in which he makes threatening comments or discusses potentially illegal activities like exhuming graves of mass shooting victims to prove they are not real. In one post, Ussery writes under the image of a police officer that first responders will "hang" unless they "join the people telling the truth."
Wade said Side Thorn and Conspiracy Granny are part of a network of "hoaxers," or people who believe mass shootings and other high-casualty tragedies are "false flags" perpetrated by the government to form a pretext for seizing people's firearms and ushering in a repressive global autocracy. Hoaxers latch onto events like the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting or the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida, claiming that victims, witnesses, and loved ones are "crisis actors" and that the events are staged.
Those spreading false information or hoaxer conspiracies in the wakes of mass casualty incidents have been facing real-world consequences in recent months. The parents of two children killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy are suing conspiracy troll Alex Jones of InfoWars for $1 million in damages. Other troll sites like GotNews.com and GatewayPundit.com have also been sued for defamation after naming an innocent person as the man who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring several others, some severely.
Ussery is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service, and was scheduled to make an initial court appearance on 24 May 2018. If convicted, he faces up to ten years in federal prison.