An Alaskan children’s book illustrator was dropped by his publisher after he was arrested for posting menacing, transphobic notes targeting children at local businesses.
Mitchell Thomas Watley, 47, is accused of putting the threatening notices in public places throughout the capital city of Juneau beginning on Friday — the International Day of Transgender Visibility.
The notes, which were business-card sized, showed an assault rifle and the colors of the transgender flag with the text “Feeling Cute Might Shoot Some Children,” according to the criminal complaint.
Watley did not enter a plea to the felony charge during his first court appearance Monday, the Juneau Empire reported.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 11.
The incident comes just days after 28-year-old shooter Audrey Hale, who identified as transgender, opened fire at her old Christian elementary school in Nashville, killing six people before she was shot and killed by police.
The mass shooting has sparked an increase in anti-transgender rhetoric as lawmakers across the country have pushed for more restrictions on trans people’s rights.
Watley’s first notes were found Friday in a grocery store and on a bulletin board at a state office building in Juneau.
The notes forced Juneau schools to increase security after the first note was found, and some fearful parents kept their children home.
The last notes were found Sunday at a Costco.
Watley was arrested after police reviewed security camera footage from the store that showed him at the scene.
The illustrator told police that he acted in response to the Nashville shooting.
“Officers spoke to Mitchell, who said (in essence) that he was in fear of the recent transgender school shooter and took it upon himself to print out and distribute these leaflets,” the complaint against Watley said.
His wife, who authors his books, paid his $10,000 bail, according to online records.
Rexene Finley, the assistant district attorney, told the judge in court that Watley “targeted our most vulnerable populations.”
Watley and his publisher, Sasquatch Books, owned by Penguin Random House, said Wednesday it has ended its publishing relationship with Watley and his wife and will discontinue selling their books.
Watley is best known as the illustrator for three children’s books written by his wife, Sarah Asper-Smith, including “I Would Tuck You In” and “You Are Home With Me.”
The books for children ages 1 to 5 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.”
Juneau merchants began removing Asper-Smith’s books from their shelves this week, but only the ones with illustrations by her husband.
She does not face charges.
With Post wires