British Columbia

B.C. man investigated for online death threats against CNN anchor

Police have recommended charges against a British Columbia man accused of mounting a vitriolic online campaign — including death threats — against a prominent CNN anchor and staff at the station's New York headquarters.

Suspect allegedly claimed, 'I just rant like everyone else' when questioned during investigation

CNN anchor Erin Burnett looks on ahead of a Democratic primary debate in 2020. The CNN anchor was the target of a campaign of death threats allegedly linked to a man in Surrey, B.C. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Police have recommended charges against a British Columbia man accused of mounting a vitriolic online campaign — including death threats — against a prominent CNN anchor and staff at the station's New York headquarters.

According to court documents, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York Police Department and Interpol have all contacted RCMP with concerns about the Surrey man, who has allegedly been linked to months of threats against Erin Burnett, her family and CNN employees.

A spokesperson for the B.C. Prosecution Service confirmed that prosecutors are assessing charges against the man — who was arrested and released on conditions in July.

The CBC is not naming the man as he has not been charged.

But a copy of information sworn to obtain a warrant to search the man's home in July details both the investigation and the suspect's alleged belief that he was somehow shielded by the omnipresent nature of internet abuse.

"I just rant like everyone else. I'm not a credible threat," the man allegedly told investigators at one point.

"I don't know if I can be charged for ranting on the internet like everyone else."

'Did not threaten any CNN journalists'

According to the search warrant, RCMP first received a complaint about the man in May 2021, initiated by an email from Google to Washington Interpol titled "User in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada threatened to murder named CNN employee, her family and colleagues."

Google provided information associated with an account which made comments on YouTube videos as well as examples of the threats.

People walk by the New York City headquarters of CNN at Hudson Yards in April 2022. According to a search warrant, a man in British Columbia posted online threats against the network's staff. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

"It's the middle of the day on a Monday, and all I can think about is how much I want to kill Erin Burnett and her family," one comment read.

"I'm gonna get as many CNN employees as possible."

The documents say Interpol sent an urgent request to the RCMP's foreign and domestic liaison unit to investigate. Police then linked the online information to a physical address through an emergency disclosure from Shaw Communications.

According to the search warrant, the man said he would "absolutely in no way harm himself or anyone else" and that he "did not threaten any CNN journalists."

He also said he would ensure that "no threats came from his computer."

'Threatened to commit a mass murder'

Police returned to the man's apartment in March 2022 when the FBI contacted RCMP to report that a YouTube user had "threatened to commit a mass murder at the CNN building" in New York.

"The threat read: 'As soon as I'm ready, I'm going to Hudson Yards, and I'm going to take out as many CNN employees as possible," the warrant says.

A person types at a keyboard
According to the search warrant, a British Columbia man who is suspected of uttering online threats against a CNN anchor claimed he was just ranting on the internet 'like everyone else.' (Trevor Brine/CBC)

RCMP spoke with the man again, which is when he allegedly said that he was not a credible threat.

According to the court documents, an investigator encouraged him to "alter the way he delivers frustration online to prevent further interactions with police."

NYPD contacted RCMP at the end of June after they received a complaint from John Teehan, director of executive protection and special events for Warner Brothers Discovery, the company which owns CNN.

Teehan claimed that Burnett had been subject to a barrage of threats from a handful of Twitter accounts that all appeared to be operated by the same user.

"Teehan stated that the threats have been occurring for some time, but the vitriol and threats have been increasing in intensity," the warrant reads.

"Teehan stated that due to the nature of these threats, Burnett has been concerned for the safety of not only herself but for that of her family."

'A false sense of anonymity'

The court documents state that the man is believed to suffer from a "possible brain injury and mental health issues," but police determined that he did not meet the criteria for apprehension under the Mental Health Act.

RCMP arrested him for uttering threats on July 10 as they prepared to search his residence. He was later cautioned and released on conditions with a promise to appear in court at a future date to face possible charges.

Both YouTube and Twitter have suspended accounts operated by the man.

The search warrant allowed the search and seizure of the man's electronic devices.

RCMP have since completed their investigation and forwarded a charge recommendation to the Crown.

In a statement, a spokesperson told CBC the often polarized and vicious debate on the internet cannot provide cover for threats of violence.

"There can sometimes be a false sense of anonymity with online messages or comments," the police agency said in the statement.

"The reality is that online threats can be tracked to a sender, who is ultimately responsible for what they send and will be held accountable if the threats are deemed criminal in nature."


Jason Proctor


Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.