INDEPENDENCE — A patient at the Independence Mental Health Institute with a history of threatening U.S. presidents has been charged with attempting to smother a fellow patient and threatening to kill a staff member.
The incidents happened months apart, and Buchanan County sheriff’s deputies Friday arrested Terrance David Rooney Jr., 44, for attempted murder, first-degree harassment and assault on a health care worker.
Rooney remains at the county jail with bond set at $500,000 cash only.
According to court records, Rooney was at the MHI facility Nov. 18 when he tried to suffocate another patient with a pillow. Rooney had made comments about killing the man several days before and had planned the attack, waiting for him to be in his room asleep while no staff was around, records state.
Then on Feb. 13, Rooney allegedly grabbed the thumb of a staff member who was trying to restrain him. He twisted the thumb and told the worker he was going to kill her, records state. The employee suffered a sprained thumb and was unable to work.
This isn’t the first time Rooney has been charged with attacking MHI staff. In August 2016, he swung at the head of a female employee and pulled out chunks of her hair. He was arrested for assault on a health care worker and later pleaded guilty.
In the 1998, Rooney was indicted for mailing threats to then-President Bill Clinton. He pleaded guilty and was committed for a mental health condition, records state.
In August 2004, he assaulted a nurse at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, and when authorities there detained him he said he was going to “get a gun and shoot the president,” records state. Secret Service members questioned him about the statement, and he said he remembered hearing voiced that told him to hurt the nurse, but he said he had no memory of threatening the president.
He was committed to a psychiatric ward at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque, and while there in November 2004 wrote a letter that contained threats against President George W. Bush, past President George H.W. Bush, Gov. Terry Branstad and lawmakers Charles Grassley, Tom Harkin, John Kerry and their families, record state.
Another letter in December 2004 stated Rooney was hearing voices in his head telling him to kill President Bush and the vice president and then to kill himself, court records state. Days later, while in the Dubuque County Jail, Rooney was heard screaming he was going to kill the president and Judge Randall Nigg, who had presided over portions of one of his cases.
He pleaded to two counts of threatening the president in 2006 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison with placement in a federal medical facility.