ASHBURN, Va. (7News) — Some Loudoun County residents were threatened, and one even lost his job, after a social media group allegedly worked to dox them after the residents spoke out at school board meetings, according to documents a whistleblower sent 7News.
“I was taken back when I received a phone call from the sheriff’s department – a deputy – saying I was being threatened online,” Loudoun County resident Mark Winn told 7News.
The online threats happened in a Facebook group called the “Loudoun Love Warriors.”
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The “Loudoun Love Warriors” group includes campaign volunteers, supporters, and staff for several Loudoun County elected officials, 7News learned after investigating the group members' ties.
7News obtained hundreds of messages from a whistleblower in the group who thought the conversations were going too far.
The “Loudoun Love Warriors” group includes people who appear to be associated with Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj, County Supervisor Juli Briskman, School Board Chair Ian Serotkin, school board member Brenda Sheridan, school board member Atoosa Reaser, school board member Erika Ogedegbe, school board candidate Anne Donohue, sheriff candidate Craig Buckley, and Chair Phyllis Randall. None of these elected officials personally made any threats.
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Some of the people in the group are even paid by the elected official’s campaigns and work in their official offices.
Loudoun County Supervisor Candidate Puja Khanna, who is running in the Dulles district, appears to have been a member of the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group when the threats happened, and it also appears school board member Ogedegbe was a member of the group before the threats took place inside the group chat.
“I unsubscribed from the group after the election and as such don't have any knowledge of any current conversations,” Ogedegbe told 7News in an email after 7News requested an interview with Ogedegbe.
After Winn spoke at a school board meeting in December 2022, one person in the “Loudoun Love Warriors" said they wanted to find Winn’s employer and hold the company accountable until he is fired. That same person and others wrote:
“It shocked me,” Winn said when he learned of the specific messages in a 7News interview.
What shocked Winn, even more, was a series of messages from people in the “Loudoun Love Warriors," who wrote:
Despite the violent comments, a Loudoun County real estate agent appears to have posted Winn’s address in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group.
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“I am going to reach out to the broker and owners,” the real estate agent said in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group as she tried to confirm Winn’s address.
But that’s not all. Winn showed 7News the email that the real estate agent sent to his employer asking them to take action against him.
“They threatened my life and my livelihood,” said Winn.
This is happening at a time when Winn’s wife is battling Stage 4 cancer.
“Cancer is a tough thing,” said Winn.
Winn said he never imagined being threatened for his school board speech in which he quoted a verse from the Bible.
Some Loudoun residents had also launched an online petition to ban “hate speech” at school board meetings after Winn’s December school board speech. The petition was circulated by members of the “Loudoun Love Warriors."
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Winn said that his comments at the school board meeting have been taken out of context.
“Quoting scripture in a public forum, that never has been, and never should be considered hate speech,” said Winn. “When they threaten someone’s employment or threaten somebody’s life, or threaten their home, yeah that’s hate speech.”
Winn isn’t the only person that members of the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group went after.
“They went after my job,” said Scott Mineo, a Loudoun County parent. “That happened in early February. They referred me to the FBI, IRS, and DHS all because they don’t like my opinion.”
Mineo said individuals who appear to be associated with Briskman, Reaser, and Biberaj put pressure on his employer to fire him. And after one person in the group contacted Mineo’s employer with allegations against Mineo, he was let go from his job.
“They're probably going to sit back and celebrate the fact that I'm unemployed,” said Mineo. “I'm having a hard time finding a job. And who knows what's next with the IRS and the FBI? I don't know. But they've done more than just put me out of a job. It's impacting my family, my kids.”
Members of the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group talked about Mineo’s employment status, according to documents obtained by 7News.
“What’s the status of Mineo’s employment?” someone in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group asked. “Did anyone email besides [the name of someone who appears to be associated with Biberaj, Briskman and Reaser].”
“They won’t tell me that, just that they investigated and took appropriate remedial action,” the person who appears to be associated with Biberaj, Briskman, and Reaser said in the group.
“I do feel like if they saw me, they would come after me,” said Elicia Brand, a Loudoun County parent.
A person in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” Facebook group wrote, “Please leave me in a room alone with Elicia” and “She is so lucky there are laws because she would be curbstomped.”
“It's very, very hurtful. Especially somebody who's been a victim of violence before,” said Brand. “It has affected me emotionally. I have to look around everywhere I go to make sure they're not there because I don't think laws will stop them from actually doing something.”
For the past two years, the three Loudoun County residents have spoken during public comment periods at school board meetings to push for more parental rights in education, academic rigor, special education improvements, school safety and more.
“This is out of control. We can disagree. You don't have to like what I say. I'm not violating the law. But now you're destroying my life,” Mineo told 7News about the backlash he has received from some Loudoun County elected officials’ campaign operatives.
After lively school board meetings in Loudoun County in 2021, which received national attention during the election year when Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe were campaigning for Virginia governor, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote a memo to the Federal Bureau of Investigations saying there’s “been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff” and that “threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values.”
“Just like there is a policy that says you can't go after elected officials, you shouldn't be able to threaten violence and conspire to harm another person physically,” said Brand.
“Do you think Merrick Garland needs to look into this too?” asked 7News Reporter Nick Minock.
“Absolutely,” said Brand. “This is a conspiracy to intimidate us. It is domestic terrorism. And they also said ‘We are going to get information from Brenda Sheridan’, who was the chairwoman of the school board, but she now sits on the [school] board and she has to have some sort of accountability to this. Atoosa Reaser as well. Buta Biberaj needs to prosecute this, and I'd really like to hear what she has to say. I'd like to hear what Chair Randall has to say.”
“Violent threats are never acceptable and at times can be criminal. I personally condemn all violent language and my office will be investigating whether a crime was committed. Due to the possibility of a criminal investigation, I can not comment further at this time," Biberaj said in a statement to 7News.
“When we have something like this in writing, I call out to Merrick Garland and I say this is domestic terrorism, not parents who are speaking out for their children and others and trying to advocate for the best education possible for them,” Brand added. “Domestic terrorism is the fear that they're putting into my life, taking away Scott's ability to provide for his family, and threatening Mark's life. That's domestic terrorism. And I hope that Merrick Garland is true to his word, and we'll have the FBI investigate these women and these men who are using their positions in their associations with our elected officials and the candidates that are running to harm us. They truly are trying to silence the opposition. And that's wrong.”
In a statement to 7News, Randall stated, “No threats of violence are ever appropriate in any way, in any place, at any time, from anyone. I strongly condemn any use of violent language in any capacity. Those that use violent language are not welcome in the Loudoun Democratic Party.”
When members of the “Loudoun Love Warriors” were trying to find the identity of Winn after he spoke at a school board meeting, someone in the group wrote “Can someone ask Brenda?! She was there.”
“Anyone riding with this guy gotta GO,” another member of the group responded.
The Loudoun County residents whose lives have been impacted or threatened tell 7News they want Garland to investigate the threats and harassment against them, especially as one person in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” talked about showing up with guns. They also want the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office to take the threats seriously.
“So where is he showing up with guns? Is he showing up at our homes? Is he showing up at the school board with guns?” asked Brand.
“When some sort of tragedy happens across the country and there’s a mass shooting of some sort, what is typically found out once people start doing investigations? There were red flags – nobody did anything. It needs to be investigated at every level,” said Mineo.
“This is an issue for all of us,” said Brand. “Today it’s the three of us that are being attacked, discriminated against, defamed, threatened, tomorrow it’s somebody else for their beliefs.”
Brand is also concerned after someone in the group wrote, “We are too strong for them. Once Buckley [candidate for Loudoun County Sheriff] is elected the FULL tide turns. Im betting my life on him.”
“It scares me that Buckley will come after citizens,” said Brand. “I'd love to hear his assurances that he would never do that. But I don't trust that he won't. It frightens me for the safety of my children, of myself, my entire family, and my friends. I worry about our freedom and our liberty with somebody like Buckley in charge.”
Buckley released this statement to 7News stating that he condemns violence.
“As a career law enforcement official, I’ve seen how violent speech can spur violent actions. Violent threats in any form will not be tolerated, especially those intended to inhibit First Amendment free speech rights of those we might not agree with. I condemn all speech that threatens violence," said Buckley.
7News is reaching out to the candidates and the Loudoun County elected officials who appear to be associated with members of the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group for their reaction to what people in the group said about Loudoun County residents.
“Although I have no knowledge of the incidents to which you are referring, I fully condemn any and all threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation,” Reaser told 7News in an email after 7News requested an interview with Reaser.
After 7News requested an interview with Briskman, she told 7News in an email that “I will not be commenting for your story.”
"I am not familiar with the Facebook group you cite - "Loudoun Love Warriors." As a long-term resident and the Commonwealth's Attorney for Loudoun County, I hope for meaningful dialogue and less rhetoric in social media. One's First Amendment rights are vital to democracy and our core principles of freedom and justice in America," Biberaj said in a statement to 7News after the story aired. "I have sworn to uphold the United States Constitution and will do so with every fibre of my being. However, if anyone makes threats which cross into being unlawful, I have faith that our local law enforcement is equipped to investigate the matters. If their investigation results in findings of violations of criminal law, then the legal process will be initiated and take its course."
“As a School Board member, I and my colleagues have been the subject of countless death threats and other violent acts. Any violent language or threats used anywhere in any capacity is abhorrent and is against the principles of our democracy. I do not condone any such behavior or anyone I associate with making or tolerating such threats," Serotkin said.
"A news story yesterday reported allegations of threats made against Loudoun County residents in a Facebook group chat. Before yesterday, I was not aware the group existed and I have never been a member. I condemn in the strongest possible terms violence or threats of violence from any source and on any medium. I intend to keep my campaign focused on building community and consensus to make decisions in the best interests of LCPS students," At-Large Loudoun County School Board Candidate Anne Donohue told 7News in a statement on May 10.
7News also reached out to the real estate company that the real estate agent works for and asked if they approve of one of their real estate agents using the MLS system to find where Winn lives to then dox Winn’s information onto a Facebook page where people had made violent political threats against him.
“The actions you’ve described are not representative of our company or its values,” the real estate company told 7News in an email.
7News has also reached out to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office to ask what they are doing to protect the Loudoun County residents who have been threatened and impacted. 7News will continue to provide updates on this developing story.
In March 2021, a Facebook group called “Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County” was under investigation after they received complaints alleging their social media posts were "evidence of organized criminal activity intended to infringe upon First Amendment rights and violated certain laws surrounding the crimes of stalking, harassment, and racketeering.
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The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office announced in July 2021 that the Facebook group that was accused of creating a "hit list" targeting those who opposed their ideologies would not be criminally charged.
Loudoun County Democratic Committee Chair Avram Fechter released the following statement: “The Loudoun County Democratic Committee and every elected Democrat and Democratic nominee in Loudoun County strongly condemns the use of violent language and threats of violence at every level of our political discourse, whether in public speeches, rallies, official meetings, or private chat rooms.”
“Those that use this kind of dangerous rhetoric should not be welcome in the public square. We have seen too many times how violent rhetoric ignites violent actions that hurt and kill people.”
“WJLA Channel 7 ran a news story today saying that staff associated with the offices or campaigns of Buta Biberaj, Juli Briskman, Ian Serotkin, Brenda Sheridan, Atoosa Reaser, Erika Ogdeboke, Anne Donohoe, Craig Buckley, and Phyliss Randall were members of a private Facebook group chat where death threats were made.”
“LCDC has seen some, but not yet, all of the posts mentioned in the story. We will fully investigate who made the threats, who condoned the threats, and who saw the threats and ignored the threats. Anyone who makes, condones, or tolerates violent rhetoric of any kind is not welcome in LCDC. Those involved will be asked to resign or I will initiate action to expel them consistent with LCDC by-laws.”
7News has reached out to Facebook about whether they were aware of the threats made in the "Loudoun Love Warriors" group and if their conduct is a violation of Facebook's policies. We will update this story when we get a response.
LCDC Chair Fechter told us that further statements will be coming as the Loudoun County Democratic Committee continues to gather facts.
7News will continue to update this story with responses from officials and what they plan to do about this situation.