Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama faced no "true threat" from three white men arrested in Colarado, US authorities claimed, even as they charged them with gun and drugs offences.
Dismissing reports that the three men had serious plans to shoot Obama, US Attorney Troy Eid on Tuesday said threatening comments attributed to the suspects in media accounts after their arrest in Aurora east of Denver on Sunday amounted to "the racist ramblings of three meth heads."
"There is no credible threat," Eid told a press conference in Denver, where the Democratic Party is holding a convention to formally nominate Obama, aspiring to be the first black US president as its candidate for the Nov 4 election.
"There was insufficient evidence that the statements (of the suspects) constituted a true threat," Eid said asserting that investigators had yet to tie any of the weapons recovered to any specific plot to attack the candidate.
The prosecuting attorney said he did not know if Obama had been informed of the case, but he had briefed US Attorney General Michael Mukasey on the situation.
According to the criminal complaints, police in Aurora seized two rifles with hunting scopes, ammunition, body armour and a mobile methamphetamine lab from a rented pickup truck driven by one of the men during a traffic stop early on Sunday morning.
The arrest of the driver, Tharin Gartrell, 28, led authorities to the two other men. One of them, Nathan Johnson, 32, told federal agents that the third, Shawn Adolf, 33, had spoken of wanting "to kill Obama on the day of his inauguration," according to an affidavit filed with the police complaints.
The new US president will take office Jan 20, 2009.
According to Johnson, Adolf had said he would use a sniper rifle, like one found in the truck, to shoot Obama from "high ground," the affidavit said.
Johnson, in whose name the truck was rented, also stated that he believed Gartrell was in the Denver area to help Adolf attack Obama, though he said he never specifically heard Gartrell threaten Obama, it said.
Adolf and Johnson were both charged with illegal possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine. Johnson also was charged with illegal possession of body armor. Gartrell, a cousin of Adolf, faced a lesser drug charge.