PAHOKEE — A well-known, outspoken resident of Pahokee has been arrested and charged with “intimidation - sending written threat to commit bodily injury.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Samuel J. McKinstry, 49, of Main Street in Pahokee was taken into custody by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies on a warrant. The charge stems from incidents between Sept. 26, 2018, and June 26, 2020. Pahokee City Manager Chandler Williamson made the original complaint 26 months ago. McKinstry was at the front door of Pahokee’s City Hall, 207 Begonia Drive, on Aug. 26 when Sheriff’s Deputy/Detective Kenneth Foster was dispatched there, along with other road deputy and K9 support, to serve the outstanding warrant,“I made contact at the front door with Samuel McKinstry … He was informed of the active warrant and was taken into custody without incident … (and) transported to the West County Detention Center,” Deputy Foster’s report stated.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 1, McKinstry was still being held there, on $50,000 bond.
The PBSO report on his arrest incorporated earlier reports regarding the long investigation.
“On June 10, 2020, members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff Department District Five Detective Bureau opened an investigation into a threat to burn black churches posted on Facebook by Samuel McKinstry. In addition, PBSO received copies of texts and an email from Pahokee City Manager Chandler Williamson captured from Facebook social media platform posted by McKinstry expressing concerns about management of the City of Pahokee and verbal attacks on city officials. Williamson stated that he and other city officials have been under constant harassment from McKinstry. Initial posts began as complaints about government corruption and incompetent management. The rhetoric has escalated into derogatory comments directed toward city officials, threats to bear arms and burn churches. McKinstry has been a frequent critic of city management and attends city commission meetings to voice his concerns. Williamson has expressed fear that McKinstry will act out his aggressions,” the report continued.
According to the PBSO, the investigation revealed “that McKinstry has a history of harassment and threats toward others,” citing his arrest in March 2010, subsequent conviction on felony aggravated stalking of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, and sentence of over two years’ prison time.
On March 3 of this year, the report states PBSO conducted an informational investigation “after receiving a complaint from … Williamson expressing concerns about personal attacks toward himself, the mayor and members of the city commission. He provided copies of posts and an email dating back to 2018. All documents received were entered into evidence.”
One Facebook post Williamson pointed out to PBSO investigators was on the group page “Pahokee Can” from Dec. 23, 2019, posted by McKinstry: “I’m thinking it may be time to use a little ‘force of action’ in Pahokee. Call it a 1776 moment! Let’s remind them who it is they work for. The founders didn’t argue. They picked up arms and did what was necessary. I fully believe Pahokee is approaching that moment quite rapidly!”
The PBSO report details another incident this year, on Feb. 20, when McKinstry confronted officials while attempting to speak to an assistant city manager, which resulted in an altercation after which Pahokee Public Works Director Alvin Johnson ended up being charged with simple battery.
It also mentions a discussion between Deputy Foster and McKinstry at his residence regarding this case on March 3, 2020, when McKinstry explained his grievances to the deputy and was advised that he should “refrain from posting comments that could reach the threshold of a crime.” Foster’s report on this incident says that McKinstry “told me he would ‘chill’ for a while.”
On June 4, the PBSO report continues, deputies conducted an investigation initiated from an online tip alleging that McKinstry had posted a threat in response to the burning of a church in Washington, D.C. According to the report, his post stated, “Start tearing anything that has to do with anyone black. Start torching their churches. If we’re going to play games, let’s play for keeps!”
At that point, investigators reviewed “publicly available posts on multiple Facebook threads associated with Sam McKinstry and the group site Pahokee Can.
“While initially appearing to be mostly complaints against city management of the City of Pahokee, posts became increasingly hostile toward City Manager Williamson and City Commissioner Benny Everett.”
In other threads investigated by PBSO, “McKinstry included posts … touting his Marine Corps training experience as a range coach (and) long range marksman, combat marksman and trained biological warfare instructor.”
The PBSO report concludes: “Based on this investigation, it was determined that McKinstry has demonstrated a credible threat via electronic communications to conduct an act of terrorism by threatening to burn down black churches in violation of F.S. 836.10 (1) and a credible threat to use weapons to attack individuals and the African American community, causing responsible fear for their safety and apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.”