HomeArts & EntertainmentBooksChildren’s book illustrator arrested for making ‘terroristic threats’ to kids

Children’s book illustrator arrested for making ‘terroristic threats’ to kids

A children’s book illustrator has been accused of leaving transphobic notes threatening children leading to him being dropped by his publisher.

Mitchell Thomas Watley, 47, known for his drawings of mother-baby animal pairs such as sea otters and wolves, is accused of “terroristic threatening”. He allegedly placed notes in several public locations across Juneau, Alaska, starting Friday, the International Day of Transgender Visibility.

The notes included an assault rifle superimposed over the transgender flag. “Feeling Cute Might Shoot Some Children,” read the text on the notes.

Mr Watley was arrested and will have a preliminary hearing on April 11 in Juneau, Alaska.

The transphobic notes were discovered during a time of increased laws targeting transgender people, and after a shooting at a Christian school in Nashville that left six people, including three nine-year-old children, dead.

Social media accounts and other sources indicate that the Nashville shooter had identified as a man while police said the shooter “was assigned female at birth” but used male pronouns on a social media profile.

Following the shooting, however, a baseless online narrative had emerged that claimed there was a rise in transgender or nonbinary mass shooters in recent years.

Some pundits and political influencers on social media went further, falsely suggesting that movements for trans rights are radicalising activists into terrorists.

The illustrator said he was “in fear of the recent transgender school shooter and took it upon himself to print out and distribute these leaflets”.

Mr Watley’s publisher, Sasquatch Books, owned by Penguin Random House, has discontinued selling the books he illustrated for his wife Sarah Asper-Smith.

The children’s book ‘You Are Home With Me’, illustrated by Mitchell Thomas Watley, is shown at a bookstore in Portland


This also prompted many local businesses in Juneau to remove his artwork, including books illustrated by him.

One of several notes was discovered in a grocery store on the International Day of Transgender Visibility.

The incident came as lawmakers across the country consider bills limiting the rights of transgender people. Republican governor Mike Dunleavy of Alaska is one of them.

His proposed bill would require parental permission for a student to use a different name or pronoun in school records and restrict access to restrooms or locker rooms based on “biological sex”.

This bill remains in its first committee in the House, and Senate leaders in a bipartisan majority have indicated that it is not expected to advance on their side.

“The anti-trans rhetoric around the country has had an effect on hate crimes or attempted hate crimes like this one,” said Caitlin Shortell, an Anchorage civil rights attorney and board member of Identity Inc, which offers community services and focused health care to the LGBT+ community.

She said transgender people rarely commit mass shootings and are more likely to be victims of violence.

“And we’ve seen nationwide, and in Alaska, initiatives to discriminate against trans people in the name of protecting children, and I link this to attempted crimes like the one that we averted in Juneau,” Ms Shortell said.

“I think that we can expect more of this as this campaign against transgender and LGBTQ people in general continues around the nation and in our state.”

Mr Watley is best known as the illustrator for three children’s books written by his wife, including “I Would Tuck You In” and “You Are Home With Me”.

The books for children between ages one and five feature mother animals snuggling their young and trying to make them feel safe with loving, affirmative statements like “wherever you may be, you will always have a home with me”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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