Iowan with Anti-Bush Button Says He Was Warned a Sniper Would Take Him Out
October 21, 2004
John Sachs is a high school senior in Johnston, Iowa, a northern suburb of Des Moines. Sachs got a ticket at school to go see Bush speak in nearby Clive one day in early October. It was billed as a question and answer session with the President.
So he and two friends, Alex Grasso and Tim Stewart, went to the event.
"I was wearing this pin that said 'Bush-Cheney '04: Leave No Billionaire Behind,' and we were walking in the line going up to the metal detector, and one of the Bush staffers saw my pin and literally pulled me out of the line," Sachs says. "He said, 'Come with me. Let me see that pin.'
"So I pulled my shirt toward him so he could read it.
"He read it and said, 'Give me the pin.'
"So I took it off and gave it to him."
Sachs says the Bush staffer told him he could go back in line. But then the staffer pulled him aside again.
"Are you a Bush supporter?"
"Well, not really."
"So why are you here?"
"I'm here to see my President, and ask questions of my President."
Then the staffer gave Sachs a chilling warning, he says. According to Sachs, here's what the Bush staffer said: "Know if you protest that it won't be me taking you out. It will be a sniper."
That shook Sachs up.
"I was really scared," he says.
Nevertheless, he kept going through the line and made it past the metal detector.
He says the Bush staffer and a Secret Service agent followed him into the Seven Flags event center.
"They put us in an area of the event center where the bleachers would eclipse us if we did any protests," he says. "I was able to sit there through the President's speech. But I was in a state of shock. I was looking at the ceiling for a sniper. Seriously, I was scared."
Nothing violent happened at the event, fortunately.
After it was over, Sachs went up to the Bush staffer. "I asked him for my pin back, and he said he lost it," Sachs recalls.
The Bush campaign did not return a call for comment.
But Bush campaign spokesman Dan Ronayne talked to the Des Moines Register, which broke this story. Ronayne said: "To the best of my knowledge, no one's lives have been threatened at an event."
But Sachs's friend Alex Grasso substantiates the account. Though Grasso wasn't within earshot of the comment, he says Sachs immediately told him and Tim Stewart about it.
"When John came back," says Grasso, "he said, 'That guy was kind of weird.'
"And we said, 'What do you mean?'
"Then he told us that the guy warned him, should he cause a disturbance, it would not be that guy stopping him, it would be a sniper."
Sachs is still upset about what he insists happened to him.
"I'm angry," he says. "I lost my First Amendment rights. But the thing that kind of freaks me out is the threat I got. That was just totally uncalled for. I'm a citizen of this country. If I can't question my ruler, what free world are we living in?"