Deanna Meyer wanted help for her lonely and angry son when she found out he was flirting with Islamic extremism.
Instead, her efforts to get him help contributed to his arrest.
Deanna Meyer’s call to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office about her son Davin put him on the radar for FBI terrorism investigators. FBI sources then entered into a months-long online conversation with the teen, who was seeking out information on how to help the terror group ISIS, according to federal authorities. Over the course of those months, federal officials monitored the teenager’s eventual path towards joining those radical extremist fighters in Iraq. He told them he wanted to fight — but he was also willing to martyr himself.
A federal magistrate judge on Thursday ordered pre-trial detention for 18-year-old Meyer of Castle Rock as he awaits court proceedings on charges of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The magistrate judge, Reid Neureiter, said he weighed heavily the implications of keeping the young man with no adult criminal record in custody ahead of his criminal proceedings, but that he felt like it was the best for his mother’s safety.
“I issue an order of detention, with great regret,” Neureiter said. “Despite her genuine testimony … I’m not willing to put her life at risk.”
Testimony at Thursday’s hearing revealed that as a teenager, Davin Meyer was struggling with various psychological and behavioral problems and had diagnoses of autism, attention deficit disorder, major depression and adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday said Meyer has been threatening his mother’s life in various ways since he was 14-years-old and that local law enforcement was familiar with the family because there had been so many calls for service to the sprawling acreage in Douglas County.
Before Meyer turned 18, he lived with his mother and near his grandmother and other extended family members on more than 500 acres in Castle Rock. In interviews with federal authorities, his grandmother said she offered to buy him a one way plane ticket out of the country to get him away from his mother because she feared for her daughter’s safety. Prosecutors say Meyer threatened to slit his mother’s throat and hang her. He grew particularly angry when she told him she called law enforcement for help.
'I had exhausted all private routes'
In court on Thursday, Deanna Meyer, who works at non-profits and is a goat and chicken farmer, said she never took her son’s threats seriously because Meyer never followed through with anything in his life and that he never lied to her.
She said she called the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to get help with his mental illness and his hard steer into Islamic extremism, an ideology that both frightened her and that she didn’t understand.
“I had exhausted all private routes … I was more concerned about ideology and where that would go,” she said.
Prosecutors pressed her on plans she had made to get a motion detector in her own home for her safety and getting something to protect herself to keep under the bed, but Meyer said she never carried through with any of that.
Her testimony underscored the excruciating decisions parents often are forced to make about involving law enforcement early with a troubled minor — particularly one with mental health and behavioral problems.
In this case, Meyer said she went to the local sheriff’s office for help and they launched a larger investigation into her son and his online behavior. In court, she said she was hoping for more comprehensive family assistance and not to bring her family to the forefront of a federal prosecution.
In many of these cases, it’s the unknown hypothetical of what could happen that is extremely difficult to parse.
Even the judge openly struggled with it, saying there were “recent cases” in Colorado of troubled young people who had histories of threatening family members and who didn’t face severe consequences for those crimes. Neureiter didn’t mention names, but the scenario tracks with the story of the shooter who carried out last November’s attack at Colorado Springs’ Club Q nightclub.
“The worst thing that can happen in my position … is to release someone and something like that happens again,” Neureiter said.
'It was the wrong place to go for help'
The government presented an outline of their case, which includes months of calls and other contacts between Meyer and “confidential human sources” working for the FBI. Over that time, they said, Meyer regularly communicated about his curiosity about radical extremism and the logistics of his eventual trip to Ankara, Turkey, where he would then seek to join ISIS.
But David Kaplan, who represents the Meyer family, said that Meyer was not a threat to his mother or the United States — particularly with the rules imposed by federal pre-trial release conditions, which include ankle monitoring and suspension of his passport.
Kaplan pointed out that if law enforcement were so worried about the threats Meyer was making to his family, then the confidential sources he was communicating with should have moved to have him arrested earlier.
“It was the wrong place to go for help in going to law enforcement,” Kaplan said. “They represented themselves as facilitators and fanned the flames of what they condemn now … It is a mitigator.”
Federal prosecutors pointed out that Meyer wasn’t just communicating with FBI officials but also with people known to have links to terrorist organizations.
They said Meyer had downloaded videos and had communicated on a cell phone with a man arrested last week in the UK on terrorism charges. Prosecutors didn’t name the man in court on Thursday, but on Friday British officials arrested Anjem Choudary on terrorism charges in London.
Meyer was also arrested at Denver International Airport on Friday as he was boarding a plane heading to Germany.
“In the course of the communications, he found a community that wasn’t just law enforcement,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Hindman.
'He took those steps'
When Meyer turned 18, his mother wanted him to get a job and try and support himself. She helped him find work at a feed store and she got him his own apartment and gave him $3,000 in allowance to try and gain some independence.
He lost his job fairly quickly at the feed store and he spent her money on a plane ticket and supplies for a trip to Turkey, prosecutors said.
Hindman said in the months of communicating with Meyer, federal officials tried to discourage him from joining terrorist groups and gave him many “off ramps” to do something else.
“No one wanted to arrest an 18-year-old for a federal crime of terrorism,” she said. “But he took those steps.”
His mother, sitting in the front row alone behind her son clad in a black and white striped prison garb, said she knew deep down that he wouldn’t ever do anything.
“The letter he left in the apartment for me said he felt bad,” she said. “He hasn’t had a friend in his past.”
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