Former Marysville student charged with racist death threats

Prosecutors say the defendant, 20, made multiple threats in the past while attending high school.

MARYSVILLE — A Lake Stevens man has been charged with a felony hate crime for posting a photo of what appeared to be a handgun on social media and threatening to kill people of color.

Court papers say Benjamin Richey, 20, had previously been investigated for multiple threats of violence, as well as hurling racial slurs at people of color, while attending school in Marysville.

In the latest incident, one of Richey’s relatives, who was still a student at Marysville Pilchuck High School, had a few friends over Jan. 28, according to the new charges filed in Snohomish County Superior Court. Richey allegedly took the phone of one of the friends without that person’s knowledge. Police believe he used the friend’s Snapchat account to post a picture of himself holding a silver BB gun with the caption “killing minorities soon.”

Richey, who is white, told police the post was a joke, according to the charges. But students didn’t take it that way. Four Marysville Pilchuck students immediately contacted the school about the post. It allegedly showed Richey’s left hand holding a silver gun that looked like a semiautomatic weapon, except for a bit of orange coloring near the muzzle indicating it was a BB gun. One student reported she believed the gun was real. She told police she felt fear because she’s a person of color. Another expressed a similar fear of harm.

Marysville Pilchuck High School was the site of a 2014 shooting that left five dead, including the perpetrator. Prosecutors argue that, with this history, it was reasonable to fear harm.

“A quick view of the image would lead a reasonable individual to believe the firearm was real as it is consistent with a semiautomatic pistol in appearance,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Jacqueline Lawrence wrote in the charging papers.

The January threat on Snapchat was not an isolated incident. In May 2016, Richey was accused of a racial slur against a classmate. He denied using the term in question, but conceded he used another racial slur. A year later, he allegedly threatened another high school student, saying he was going to shoot up the school and naming specific students. Investigations found he made similar threats weeks earlier while making a clay gun in an art class, as well. After this incident, he also said he was joking and reportedly said he wouldn’t make jokes like that anymore, according to charging papers.

In mid-December, the true owner of the Snapchat account reportedly used a racial slur during a virtual class meeting and said all Black people should be killed, according to court documents. Multiple students reported the incident, which was investigated by the Marysville Police Department. The student faced disciplinary action from the school and completed a diversion program through the Snohomish County Juvenile Court. This made one student fear the January social media post might be a real threat.

The series of incidents combined to create an uproar in Marysville schools over the past year. Local leaders hosted a rally in April calling for accountability. The teachers union voted overwhelmingly to express “no confidence” in the district’s Board of Directors.

JJ Frank, a parent of students in the school district, said Tuesday morning people shouldn’t be let off the hook just because they say their threat is a joke.

“I do believe this is the right message to send to the families of color in Snohomish County,” said Frank, the executive director of the Marysville YMCA. “As a family of color who have been traumatized through their children being threatened while trying to get a public education in Snohomish County, we as a community need to hold students and adults accountable when they threaten other people’s lives.”

Court records suggest Richey has never been convicted of a felony. Prosecutors did not object to allowing him to remain out of custody. This comes with the conditions that he not possess guns or deadly weapons, contact Marysville Pilchuck High School or violate any other law.

His arraignment is set for Aug. 5.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Freeland resident Kevin Lungren has been commuting to the office using his paddleboard. It's a commute he can do in all seasons and just about any type of weather, except wind.
Whidbey commuter paddleboards his way to work in all seasons

The financial advisor says he’s only fallen off his board twice in the past five years.

Photo by Heather Mayhugh
Stuart Peeples demonstrates how to enter Heather Mayhugh's wheelchair van. In recent months, while navigating the new Mukilteo ferry terminal, Mayhugh has struggled to unload her clients who need access to the restroom.
For some, Mukilteo’s new ferry terminal aggravates challenges

Many disabled folks say not enough thought went into improving the facility’s accessibility problems.

Parts of Snohomish County under weekend heat advisory

Monroe and areas of the county near the Cascades were expected to see highs in the 90s.

Marysville man wins $100,000 in military vaccine lottery

Carmen S., who served in the Vietnam War, claimed his $100,000 cash prize this week.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
State AG says it can’t investigate Lynnwood Jail death

Tirhas Tesfatsion’s family pushed Lynnwood leaders for an independent inquiry. Her death was ruled a suicide.

The growing business district along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, looking west toward I-5. At lower left is the construction site of the new Amazon fulfillment center. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)
Marysville-Arlington road improvements won’t happen at once

Traffic improvement projects near the Cascade Industrial Center will take shape over the next decade.

2 men get prison time for stabbing stranger at Everett motel

The pair both pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the stabbing in 2019.

3 Monroe teachers awarded $185 million for chemical exposure

Chemical giant Monsanto was ordered to pay Sky Valley Education Center teachers in the first of many lawsuits.

Terry Boese, owner of Wicked Teuton Brewing Company, says he wishes his beard was longer so he could dress up as a wizard for a Harry Potter trivia night happening later this month. The brewer and the library are teaming up to offer two Booktoberfest trivia events, starting Thursday. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor’s big-bearded Wicked Teuton brewer killed in crash

Terry Boese, a self-proclaimed “proud zymurgist,” was well-known in the North Whidbey beer scene.

Most Read