The 28-year-old woman accused in an attempted murder at Charleston’s Ashley Hall school had been indicted in 2005 on charges of threatening to shoot President George W. Bush, as well as “the entire U.S. Congress,” according to federal court documents.
Alice Boland pleaded not guilty for reasons of insanity and was later ordered into a mental health facility for treatment.
But the federal case, which was dismissed in September 2009, would not have popped up during a background check when she bought a .22-caliber handgun days before the police said she showed up at the downtown Charleston school and tried to shoot a school official.
Earl Woodham, a regional spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said this afternoon that the mental health issues do not show up during a background check.
If Boland had been convicted of a felony, that would have been a different story, he said.
“Those health issues are just not linked to the computer system for the purposes of whether someone has a mental health problem as it applies to purchasing a firearm,” Woodham said. “There’s no way on a background check to link them.”
Whether that should change has been a part of heightened public discourse since December, when gunman Adam Lanza fatally shot 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Boland, a resident of Beaufort whose family says has a history of mental illnesses, faces charges of attempted murder, pointing a firearm, as well as other weapons charges in connection with Monday’s incident.
The Charleston Police Department said she had recently bought the gun legally from a retailer. She does not have any felony convictions, according to a state background check, but she would have been required to answer a question regarding her mental health before buying the pistol.
The federal questionnaire asks whether the buyer has ever been deemed “mentally defective” or had ever been involuntarily committed to an institution.
The police said they found a copy of the form in her vehicle, which was found Monday parked outside what Boland called her “old psych doctor’s office.”
The police would not discuss the details of the information on the form, but they said the ATF was investigating the case. Federal charges against Boland are possible, they said.
A federal affidavit said Boland’s alleged threat against Bush came during a visit to Quebec, Canada. As she waited in line to clear Customs on May 14, 2005, at a Montreal airport, she made statements that the process was taking too long, the document said.
“Give me a gun,” she told Montreal police officers, according to the affidavit. “I am going to kill you.”
She continued to ramble. She expressed thoughts that her long wait in the Customs line was the president’s fault, the document stated.
“I am going to kill President Bush with a gun,” she said, according to the court papers. “Just give me a gun. I am going to come back and shoot you all.”
Montreal police officers arrested her on a charge of uttering threats, and she was taken to a Canadian hospital for psychiatric evaluation, the document stated. She was released that day on the promise that she would appear in court at a later date.
Boland flew back to the United States five days later with her father.
More than a week after the airport encounter, a Secret Service agent and a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy visited Boland at her home.
The federal agent reported in the affidavit that Boland spoke loudly and repeated her threats during an interview outside her home.
“Hell yes I would shoot him (Bush),” she said, according to the document. “I would shoot him and the entire U.S. Congress. If I had a gun I would shoot you too.”
The agent told her that making threats toward the president was a felony. But she didn’t seem to mind.
“I’ll go to Washington and I’ll shoot him dead and if you get in my way, I’ll shoot you too,” she said, according to the affidavit. “I’ll go wherever he is and find him and kill him. I’ll kill Senator Bird and Senator Clinton and all those people and think nothing of it.”
Boland told the agent that there were two guns in the house and that she would get them, the document stated. The guns were said to be an air rifle and a pellet pistol.
Even as the authorities handcuffed her, she kept yelling the threats, kicked her father and a deputy, and scratched another officer, according to the affidavit.
As she was booked into the Charleston County jail, which is the local holding facility for federal detainees, she “repeated her desire to kill the president to the on-duty jail staff,” the document stated.
A few months later, a judge ordered that personnel at a federal medical center in Texas could involuntary inject Boland with antipsychotic drug to render her competent to stand trial.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.