FBI office gunman was US Navy veteran who’d been on Bureau’s radar for months
Ricky Walter Shiffer Jr, 42, died on Thursday after trying to breach an FBI field office
The man who was killed in a police shootout after attacking an FBI field office in Ohio was a Navy veteran who once had top-secret clearance, and had been under FBI investigation for months, according to new reports.
Ricky Walter Shiffer Jr, 42, died on Thursday after trying to breach the field office in Cincinnati with a nail gun and brandishing an AR-15-style rifle when police pursued and cornered him.
Shiffer’s posts on Donald Trump‘s Truth Social platform suggest that he undertook the doomed attack in revenge for the FBI’s raid and search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this week.
Shiffer had been an enlisted sailor who served aboard the USS Columbia attack submarine – a job that requires top-secret clearance – and also served as an infantryman in the Florida National Guard, the Wall Street Journal reported.
As well, the FBI confirmed that it had been investigating Shiffer for months in connection with the US Capitol riot and another matter, but the Bureau said that it was not aware of a ‘specific and credible threat’.
Police are seen off Interstate 71 in Clinton County near Cincinnati, Ohio, during a standoff Thursday with Ricky Walter Shiffer Jr after he tried to attack an FBI office
Shiffer had been an enlisted sailor who served aboard the USS Columbia attack submarine (seen above) – a job that requires top-secret clearance
The FBI is believed to have been investigating a video that Shiffer appeared in on January 5, 2020 at a demonstration in Washington DC, and attempting to confirm whether he stormed the Capitol the following day.
As well, the FBI said in a statement that it also received a tip about Shiffer in May that was unconnected to the Capitol riot, and agents opened a separate inquiry.
Without specifying the nature of the second investigation, the FBI said that it had tried to interview Shiffer repeatedly but had failed to locate him.
Neighbors who live near Shiffer’s apartment in Columbus told the New York Times said federal agents had visited several weeks ago and asked about Shiffer, including when he usually left home for the day and returned.
Further details are also emerging about Shiffer’s prior military service.
Soon after graduating high school in Pennsylvania, Shiffer enlisted in the Navy in 1998, and went to the Navy’s submarine school in Connecticut.
He served for four years aboard the USS Columbia, a nuclear-powered attack sub, as a fire-control technician, monitoring and maintaining weapons systems.
All sailor serving that role, which deals with classified weapons systems aboard the Navy’s most secretive vessels, must pass background checks for top secret clearance.
The FBI is believed to have been investigating a video that Shiffer appeared in on January 5, 2020 at a demonstration in Washington DC, and attempting to confirm whether he stormed the Capitol the following day
Shiffer’s social media posts before and during Thursday’s attack are seen above
However, the Navy declined to verify whether Shiffer had such a clearance during or after his service, saying only that he would have had to pass the extensive background check required to hold one.
Service members often retain eligibility for security clearance even years after leaving the military, even though they no longer have access to military secrets.
Shiffer left the Navy in 2003 as a fire control technician, second class, with a pay grade of E-5.
Schiffer also served in the Florida National Guard from 2008 to 2011, rising to a pay grade of E-4. He spent a year deployed in Iraq starting in January 2010, leaving the service shortly after his return.
Federal investigators are examining social media accounts they believe are tied to Shiffer, according to a law enforcement official.
At least one of the messages on Trump´s Truth Social media platform appeared to have been posted after Shiffer tried to breach the FBI office. It read: ‘If you don´t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I.’
Another message posted on the same site this week from @rickywshifferjr included a ‘call to arms’ and urged people to ‘be ready for combat’ after the FBI search at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Shiffer, sporting body armor, attempted to break into the agency’s Cincinnati field office, prompting a five-hour standoff with authorities. He fled the office and was chased onto the highway before abandoning his car by a cornfield on a country road just off of Interstate 71
Authorities also are looking into whether Shiffer, a Navy veteran, had ties to far-right extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, the official said.
Shiffer was armed with a nail gun and an AR-15-style rifle when he tried to breach the visitor screening area at the FBI office Thursday, according to the official. Shiffer fled when agents confronted him.
He was later spotted by a state trooper along a highway and got into a gunbattle that ended with police killing him, authorities said.
The burst of violence unfolded amid FBI warnings that federal agents could face attacks following the search in Florida.
The FBI is investigating what happened in Cincinnati as an act of domestic extremism, according to the law enforcement official.
Shiffer is believed to have been in Washington in the days leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and may have been at the Capitol that day but was not charged with any crimes in connection with the riot, the official said.
Officials have warned of a rise in right-wing threats against federal agents since the FBI entered Trump’s estate in what authorities said was part of an investigation into whether he took classified documents with him after leaving the White House.
Supporters of the former president have railed against the search, accusing the FBI and the Justice Department of using the legal system as a political weapon.
Law enforcement officers have killed the armed man who attacked the FBI ‘s field office in Cincinnati, Ohio
Ricky Walter Shiffer was shot dead by police Thursday after raised a gun towards officers around 3pm, state highway patrol confirmed
FBI Director Christopher Wray denounced the threats as he visited an FBI office in Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday, saying, ‘Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you´re upset with.’
The FBI on Wednesday also warned its agents to avoid protesters and ensure their security key cards are ‘not visible outside FBI space,’ citing an increase in social media threats against bureau personnel and offices.
A now-suspended Twitter account, @rickyshiffer, shared the same profile picture as the Truth Social account and similar opinions, including a call for armed conflict in the U.S. this past spring.
It included posts saying that ‘elections are rigged’ against conservatives and that the country faces ‘tyranny.’
‘I don´t think it´s a one-off incident,’ said Amy Cooter, a researcher at Middlebury College who is an expert on militias. ‘I´m afraid there´s going to be a pocket full of people who feel compelled to act.’
Courthouses, government offices and election headquarters all could be targets, she said. ‘Anywhere is fair game now because these folks feel this a personal issue for them,’ Cooter said.
Shiffer worked as an electrician, according to one of his social media profiles. He was a registered Republican who voted in the 2020 primary from Columbus, Ohio, and in the 2020 general election from Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to public records.
Court records show the Ohio Department of Taxation filed suit against him in June, seeking a $553 tax lien judgment, according to court records listing him at an address in St. Petersburg, Florida. He also previously lived at several addresses in Columbus and in Omaha, Nebraska.
He graduated from high school in central Pennsylvania in 1998 and enlisted in the Navy that same year, later serving on the USS Columbia submarine until 2003, according to military records. He was an infantry soldier in the Florida Army National Guard from 2008 to 2011, when he was honorably discharged.
‘I know he was way into World War II and the military,’ said Lori Frady, a classmate at West Perry High School in Elliottsburg, who had not seen Shiffer since graduation. ‘He didn´t have a lot of friends, but the friends he did have were big into history and military history.’