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Man accused of firing at Montgomery County Democratic headquarters is now in federal custody

Prosecutors upgraded the charges against Anthony Nero, 48, to federal crimes on Wednesday.

Anthony Nero was taken into custody by federal agents on Wednesday, shortly after he reported to a district judge's office in Norristown for his scheduled preliminary hearing.
Anthony Nero was taken into custody by federal agents on Wednesday, shortly after he reported to a district judge's office in Norristown for his scheduled preliminary hearing.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

An Eagleville man who authorities say fired a handgun into the headquarters of the Montgomery County Democratic Party out of frustration over COVID-19 restrictions and Donald Trump’s loss in the presidential election was taken into federal custody Wednesday.

Anthony Nero, 48, faces charges of threatening communications and cyberstalking in connection with the shooting and for sending a threatening email to party leaders weeks before, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. Previously, county prosecutors had charged him with terrorism, terroristic threats, carrying a gun without a license, and related offenses, but withdrew those charges Wednesday in anticipation of the federal charges.

» READ MORE: Eagleville man arrested for firing into the Montgomery County Democratic Committee’s headquarters

Nero appeared as scheduled for his preliminary hearing in the local case Wednesday morning before Magisterial District Judge Margaret Hunsicker. But the proceeding ended quickly when Assistant District Attorney Kathleen McLaughlin withdrew the charges and federal agents took him to a detention center in Philadelphia.

Nero was arrested so abruptly that he left his car and suit behind at Hunsicker’s Norristown office, according to his attorney, Timothy Woodward.

Woodward said he was caught off guard by the upgrading of the charges. “It’s a difficult case, but I don’t think it’s something that necessarily rises to the federal level,” he said. “But given the current political climate, and the polarizing nature of our culture today, it makes sense.”

Investigators in Montgomery County said Nero, a self-described Trump supporter, sent an expletive-filled email to the county Democratic Committee on Jan. 7. In the email, Nero warned the Democrats to “beef up security” at their Norristown headquarters and said that “random acts of violence are difficult to investigate.”

“With this stolen election and coup d’etat, violence is the only language you bloodsuckers understand,” Nero allegedly wrote in the email, which authorities say he signed “Silent Majority.”

He also sent a Facebook message on Jan. 6 in which he joked about “going to go find a local Democrat Office and shoot it up,” authorities said.

» READ MORE: Party officials shaken after gunman targets Montgomery County Democratic Committee office

On Jan. 20, prosecutors say, Nero drove from his home to the party headquarters and shot into the building three times with a .45-caliber handgun. The office was empty at the time.

Using the IP address from the cell phone used to send the email, detectives traced the message back to Nero, who owns a gun matching the caliber of the one used in the shooting, according to the affidavit.

In an interview with detectives, Nero admitted to both sending the email and shooting into the office, the affidavit said. He said he did so because he was frustrated by the COVID-related shutdowns and the “abundant evidence available relating to the theft of the election” by President Joe Biden, the document said.