Ex-UCSB engineer arrested for school death threats

February 24, 2010

Neil Baker

A man who claims to be the anti-Christ was arrested last week on suspicion of making a bomb threat against the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). [TriCityHerald]

Neil Paul Baker, 51, a former UCSB Senior Development Engineer  was either fired or resigned in 2004. Since then, his threats against the university have become more frequent and bizarre.

Baker’s Craiglist death depiction

Throughout February, Baker posted dozens of “Rants and Raves” on Craigslist. These include a Feb. 5 mock news article (dead link removed) titled “Mass suicide at UCSB shocks nation” in which he describes the suicide of 13,000 UCSB faculty members and students that he said was prompted by his rants.

On Feb. 8, he wrote that he would be at UCSB in a couple of weeks. A subsequent post (dead link removed) depicts Baker wearing a black mask and holding a rifle. Other postings warn readers to “Stay away from the psycho at play” or “Neil!!!! (dead link removed) You’re the anti-Christ!”

Neil Baker

Following Baker’s Feb. 15 arrest, police searched his Kennewick, Wash., home and discovered writings in which he claimed to be the anti-Christ and books on how to produce explosives. In addition, he had the book Going Postal, about workplace shootings and The Art of Getting Even, a book about getting your own justice.

UCSB police put out an alert about Baker on Feb. 11, advising people to call police if they saw him on campus “because of recent non-specific threats that may pertain to current UCSB employees.”

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“Following Baker’s Feb. 15 arrest, police searched his Kennewick, Wash., home”

There are plenty of unhinged people like this that are totally harmless. There are plenty of seemingly stable people who aren’t harmless. I’m sorry to say that in a free and just society, this is a risk. Freedom isn’t free, but the cost of it isn’t unjust wars. One of the costs is understanding that all the mental health professionals and preemptive arrests in the world are not going to be able to accurately predict and protect us from true violent nutcases, so we shouldn’t be arresting people who act out like this.

Many will disagree, but I can *guarantee* you that arresting a guy like this is NOT going to help the situation and keep him from going over the edge. What it IS going to result in is another eccentric scary guy being loaded up on prescribed psychoactive drugs and subjected to bureaucratic justice system which will make him even more hateful. And one day he fail to take his drugs and THEN you will have a real psycho.

No thanks, I prefer that people like this are allowed to express themselves freely (so I know what’s in their head). If they make a direct threat, like “I’m going to…” then there is a crime, otherwise ver time and across the sum of all situations, the benefits of respecting the principles of free speech far outweigh the costs associated with making exceptions for things like implied terrorist threats.