Ex-nuclear plant contractor charged with terroristic threats

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A disgruntled contract employee who had been working at Xcel Energy's Monticello nuclear power plant harassed and threatened union officials before police discovered he had a carload of explosive materials and ammunition, prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint.

Robert James Johnson, 58, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was charged in Ramsey County last week with three felony counts of making terroristic threats. The complaint alleges he had been confrontational with carpenters' union officials leading up to his May 13 firing and became increasingly threatening to them before his arrest May 20, as first reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The complaint said Johnson worked at Monticello for three months and "has a history of being removed or fired from job sites for a variety of reasons." It said the steward at the job site told union officials May 10 he could no longer work with Johnson because of Johnson's behavior. It said an attempt by a chapter president to mediate ended with Johnson being escorted out of the union office.

Johnson allegedly told another union official May 18 he was "an ex-Marine and certifiably crazy. ... You'd better resign or the last thing you're going to hear," then "made a whistling sound like a bullet."

When police searched his car May 20, they found 6 pounds of the explosive Tannerite, lighter fluid, propane, 500 .22-caliber rifle rounds, nine 20-gauge shotgun shells, a 5-gallon bucket and leg irons, the complaint said. It alleged that he told investigators he was planning "a surprise attack."

"Johnson said he had ammunition and a bear trap in his car," the complaint said. "Johnson clapped his hands together and said, 'Boom. Tick tock tick tock.'"

Police checked the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters union hall for explosives but found nothing, the complaint said.

Johnson posted bond and was released from jail Tuesday. His attorney, Eric Hawkins, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. He's due back in court June 11.

Peter Gardner, site vice president for the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, said in a statement Thursday that Johnson was not an Xcel Energy employee. He was employed as a contractor through the union and was terminated by his employer, not Xcel Energy, he said. No threats were made against the plant or plant employees, he added.

"The safety and security of our facilities and employees are our top priorities," Gardner said. "We're working with law enforcement to assist in this investigation."