The death of a former Department of Homeland Security official in Northern California decided suicide

By DON THOMPSON | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — The death of a former Department of Homeland Security official two years ago, which sparked right-wing conspiracy theories, was ruled a suicide by a Northern California sheriff’s coroner on Wednesday.

Evidence found during the inquest into Philip Haney’s death has now led to a new probe into how he obtained “smuggled” documents.

Haney, 66, was found dead on February 21, 2020 with a single gunshot wound at a park and ride lot along a busy state highway in a rural area of ​​Amador County, east of Sacramento. For 15 years, he was a former DHS national security official and a self-proclaimed whistleblower criticizing President Barack Obama’s administration.

Haney’s death was so controversial that the Amador County Sheriff’s Office called in FBI crime scene investigators and other analysts to assist.

Investigators found that Haney left a suicide note with a signature that forensic analysis found in his handwriting. The weapon used was traced back to him.

He also left neatly organized financial documents with instructions on how he planned to distribute his wealth, according to investigators. And Haney gave away his potted plants the day before he was found dead.

“Following a thorough review of the evidence collected and processed by the Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, the Sheriff’s Office has determined Mr. Haney’s manner of death as a suicide,” said Sheriff Gary Redman’s office statement. “This case has been deemed closed.”

Haney published a book in 2016 entitled See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad, which alleges the Obama administration’s inaction on terrorism.

He testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee and appeared on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show the year his book was published. His death spurred conspiracy speeches by Republican US Rep. Steve King of Iowa and another GOP congressman on the House floor.

“He was a target for everything he knew about covering up Islamist terrorists,” King tweeted at the time. “Phil Haney didn’t kill himself.”

After Haney’s death, the FBI’s analysis of numerous USB flash drives and a personal laptop in Haney’s RV found that “many documents found are the property of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” according to the sheriff’s detailed death investigation report.

The Office of Professional Responsibility of that federal agency asked to take possession of the so-called “smuggling” documents.

The sheriff’s office said it turned over Haney’s laptop and three USB flash drives a month ago “for her investigation into violations of CBP policy and numerous US codes.”

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jaime Ruiz said he couldn’t comment on the matter “because it’s an open investigation.”

“We may get more details as the investigation progresses, but we can’t say anything at the moment,” added Ruiz.

An FBI spokeswoman, Gina Swankie, said her agency assisted the sheriff’s office with the analysis, but said it was not an FBI investigation. She declined to comment, referring the matter to the sheriff’s office.

The US Department of Homeland Security did not immediately comment on Wednesday.

The sheriff’s office outlined numerous reasons why Haney killed himself less than three miles from where he lived.

Investigators found his vehicle parked next to his body, with the suicide note on the dashboard, which FBI analysis found had been signed by Haney. He appears to have fallen out of a folding chair after shooting himself, the sheriff’s office said.

An autopsy found no other “suspicious trauma” or injuries before death, suggesting he “was involved in any type of altercation,” the sheriff’s office said. The death of a former Department of Homeland Security official in Northern California decided suicide

Joel McCord

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