74-year-old who threatened anti-LGBT+ terror attack ‘worse than Pulse shooting’ pleads guilty

Participants hold LGBT+ rainbow flags during the second annual Queer Liberation March

A retired teacher has pleaded guilty to mailing threats of horrific violence against LGBT+ groups that would have made the “Pulse nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk”.

Robert Fehring, 74, of Bayport on Long Island, pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday (23 February) to mailing more than 20 letters threatening to shoot, assault and bomb LGBT+ groups as well as affiliated businesses and individuals. 

He could face up to five years’ imprisonment at his sentencing in June. His attorney, Genn Obedin, told Newsday that his client is “relieved to have completed this phase of the process and will now prepare himself for the final stage”. 

According to court filings, Fehring sent several letters between 2013 and 2021 threatening violence against people and businesses associated with the LGBT+ community. 

In one horrific letter, he threatened to place “radio-cont[r]olled devices placed at numerous strategic places” at the 2021 New York City Pride March. He alleged that the “firepower” would “make the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk”. 

On 12 June 2016, 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured by a heavily armed gunman at Pulse, a popular nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting at Pulse remains the single deadliest attack on the LGBT+ community in US history, and it completely shook queer communities worldwide. 

According to the court, the 74-year-old man also sent a horrific letter to a Brooklyn barbershop affiliated with the LGBT+ community, saying the shop is “the perfect place for a bombing”. 

The FBI’s Civil Rights squad and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a search warrant on 18 November at Fehring’s home.

Officials recovered copies of the threatening letters, supplies used to mail the letters, several Pride flags similar to those stolen from flagpoles in the local area and “reconnaissance-style photographs” of a Pride event in East Meadow in June 2021. 

Law enforcement officers also recovered several electronic devices that contained internet searches for Fehring’s victims as well as LGBT+ affiliated individuals, events and businesses. 

They also found two loaded shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns and a stamped envelope addressed to an LGBT+ affiliated attorney that contained the remains of a dead bird. 

Breon Peace, US attorney for the district, said in a statement that the office will “use all of its available law enforcement tools to protect the safety and civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community”. 

“We will not tolerate hateful threats intended to invoke fear and division, and we will hold accountable those who make or act on such threats,” Peace added.