Man accused of threatening to kidnap, kill Wichita mayor over COVID-19 mask mandate

WICHITA, Kan. — A Kansas man is accused of threatening to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple because of frustrations with the city’s mask ordinance, the mayor said Friday afternoon.

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Meredith Dowty, 59, of Wichita, was booked into Sedgwick County Jail at 6:05 p.m. Friday, the Wichita Eagle reported. Wichita police confirmed that Dowty is the suspect and may face a charge of criminal threat, the newspaper reported.

Police said an investigation began after they learned about the threatening statements made against the mayor, KWCH reported.

Whipple told reporters he had been read a series of text messages received by another city official that asked about Whipple’s address and contained a detailed threat against his life, the Eagle reported.

The apparent motive was the suspect’s opposition to “masks and tyranny,” Whipple said.

“He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman -- me and everyone who, something about tyranny,” Whipple said. “It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of COVID restrictions on elderly homes.”

Dowty is a local musician who plays guitar and harmonica and performs under the name “Cathead” and is a regular on the Wichita bar and nightclub scene, according to musician Joe Stumpe, a former Eagle reporter.

Dowty is a retired firefighter who was honored by the Wichita City Council in 2008 for his role in saving the life of a Wichita police officer who was shot in the line of duty, the Eagle reported.

Whipple proposed and pushed through a city ordinance that requires protective face coverings to be worn in most public settings during the pandemic, according to the newspaper.

The mayor termed Dowty’s threat as credible.

“This wasn’t just some guy popping off on social media,” Whipple told the Eagle. “He contacted someone that knows where I live that apparently he thought would give him my address.”

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