ATLANTA — Law enforcement has arrested a teen accused of making death threats on social media against a sheriff, his wife and a school district police chief.
It comes after the sweeping racketeering indictment and more than two-dozen arrests of people allegedly tied to the YSL gang.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne has been tracking this investigation for days and talked with everyone involved on Friday, including the suspect’s mother.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said the 18-year-old suspect in this case, Quartavius Mender, is being held in another county jail, not Fulton County’s.
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The sheriff told Winne that he was especially angry when he saw the first threat that mentioned his wife.
“While this is a tough job we just refuse to be bullied,” Labat said.
Labat said he knows risk goes with the post to which he was elected but a series of threatening posts on Instagram targeting not only him but in some instances his wife as well as the Atlanta Public Schools Police Chief Ron Applin crossed the line.
“I signed up for this but my family didn’t,” Labat said.
A post provided by Applin says, “Imma kill you,” and also, “Imma assassinate you.”
“You make a threat, especially to law enforcement officers, we have to take action,” Applin said.
The sheriff said an investigation started in mid-May and it led to the arrest and indictment of Mender on 23 counts of felony terroristic threats. Many of the counts refer to threats to assassinate Labat.
Malaika Kulenga told Winne she’s Mender’s mother and she believes his mental illness, diagnosed when he was 12, is to blame.
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“My son is dealing with mental health and also he’s grieving, you know? His brother was killed in September from a hit-and-run,” Kulenga said.
“Is Quartavius Mender mentally ill?” Winne asked Labat.
“We haven’t made the assessment, so we’ll leave that to the courts to decide, but the last thing you’re going to do is threaten me and my family,” Labat said.
Labat said at least some of the posts were under an Instagram handle involving the letters YSL, the name of an alleged criminal street gang at the focus of a sweeping RICO conspiracy indictment.
He said he’s not prepared to say yet whether there was a real YSL connection or someone just wanted to make it look that way.
“We assume at this point that they’re gang related. Specifically, to which gang is yet to be determined,” Labat said.
Kulenga said her son is not affiliated with YSL or any gang, but one of his cousins is named in the YSL indictment.
She said her son has not been in regular communication with him.
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“My son is not a gang member. He has no affiliation with any type of gang,” Kulenga said.
Kulenga said she found out her son was under investigation weeks ago when she learned the FBI was at his apartment and she rushed over.
“Where are you finding the strength to deal with this?” Winne asked Kulenga.
“It gotta be prayer. It gotta be God,” Kulenga said.
The suspect’s mother said she believes he should be held accountable for his actions but not at the current level. She said he was not capable of carrying out the threats.
“Do you believe Quartavius Mender had the capacity to carry out these threats?” Winne asked Labat.
“Well, I don’t put it past anybody,” Labat said.
The sheriff says he thanks Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the FBI and others who helped with the case.
“We have increased the security around the family as a whole. In many instances you see it in many instances you don’t,” Labat said.
Labat said even Friday he and his wife have both received death threats from someone using a different social media handle than he’s seen before, and the judge in the YSL case has also received threatening messages.
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