A Florida man’s “erratic” conversation with an out-of-state friend may have stopped a potential mass shooting at a church in Tennessee, according to federal prosecutors.
Thomas Matthew McVicker, a 39-year-old truck driver, was arrested in Indiana before he got to the state line, court filings show.
A federal judge in the Southern District of Alabama sentenced McVicker to two years in prison on Friday and three years of supervised release, prosecutors said in a news release. He will also be required to receive mental health treatment in prison and after his release, and must forfeit his guns and ammunition.
McVicker, from Punta Gorda on the southwest coast of Florida, pleaded guilty to sending threatening interstate communications in April, court filings show.
According to court filings accompanying his plea agreement, McVicker sent text messages about his plans to a friend in Alabama in early August 2019.
“I was thinking about shooting a church up but I’m afraid how it will affect my family in the flesh after I’m gone,” the messages read. “So I think I’m just gonna kill some people on the street and get away with it then kill myself.”
The friend told law enforcement about the threats and said McVicker lives out of his truck, prosecutors said in court filings.
A federal agent subsequently called McVicker’s mother in Florida, who said her son is on medication for schizophrenia and owned a Ruger P90 handgun, prosecutors said.
McVicker had also told his mother he planned to take time off work while in Memphis on Aug. 22, 2019, according to court filings.
Two days later, the friend called law enforcement after an “erratic” phone call with McVicker in which he again threatened to shoot up a church in Memphis, prosecutors said.
“(The friend) stated that McVicker was speaking in a frantic manner and told her that he intended to take his knife and slit the pastor’s throat,” court filings state.
A warrant for his arrest was sought that day after agents confirmed with McVicker’s work that he had requested time off in Memphis, prosecutors said. McVicker was subsequently arrested on Aug. 16, 2019, in Indianapolis with the handgun in his possession as well as five magazines, one magazine assist loader and two full boxes of 50 rounds of ammunition, according to court filings.
He told the agents “he never intended to kill others, only commit suicide,” prosecutors said.
“McVicker admitted he understood the difference between right and wrong,” court filings state. “He felt like the only solution was to end it all or commit himself to a state hospital.”
His guilty plea carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A federal judge on Friday did not issue a fine but ordered McVicker to pay $100 in special assessments, prosecutors said in the news release.