Judge returns Redmond man's guns after police seizure over 'Joker' threat

SEATTLE -- A judge ordered authorities to return a Redmond man's guns weeks after police seized them for making an alleged threat of mass violence.

Last month, Redmond Police seized multiple weapons from a 23-year-old Redmond resident under the state's Extreme Risk Protection Order, known more commonly as a red-flag law.

Authorities flagged the man after he posted a photo on Twitter, holding two AK-47-style rifles with the caption, "one ticket for joker please." It was one week before the "Joker" movie premiere.

Court documents show that a Redmond Police detective said the department had "grave concerns" about the man's intention to use firearms to cause violence against others, saying they are "troubled that moviegoers may be at risk of serious injury or death if continues to have access" to firearms.

A lengthy search into his social media activity uncovered additional threats, especially against women. In one tweet, he wrote, "Prowling the Seattle streets for women to assault. No luck so far, Hopefully my urges will be satisfied soon."

In another tweet, it reads, "I really want to just punch a woman so hard her body just buckles and collapses."

After reviewing law enforcement's evidence, a judge initially granted the warrant, but weeks later, the man went before a judge and claimed it was all a joke. The judge denied the department's request to continue holding his weapons, saying authorities did not meet the burden of proving he poses a significant danger to himself or others. She terminated the temporary order that day, which means the man was allowed to get his guns back.

"It's any judge's worst nightmare to make the wrong decision in a case like this," King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Jim Rogers said. "We certainly don't want anyone to be shot by someone who is a dangerous person so we take it very seriously."

In the end, Rogers said the judge's decision needs to strike the balance of due process, and in this case he said the judge determined the burden of proof was not met to justify the continued removal of his guns.

"We don't have anything leading us to believe that there's an immediate threat to the public at this time," Redmond Investigations Lt. Tim Gately said Tuesday.

As red-flag laws become more common across the country - Washington passed one of the first ones in 2016 - Second Amendment supporters argue the laws lack due process, since the warrant allows authorities to seize guns before the owner has his or her day in court.

"There's something fundamentally wrong with that," Second Amendment Foundation communications director Dave Workman said.

Requests to the man's attorney for an interview were not immediately returned Wednesday.