Originally created 11/29/97

Frustration with Social Security leads to alleged bomb threat



CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A man frustrated with the Social Security Administration is free on bond after calling a radio talk show and allegedly threatening to blow up the federal building in Charleston.

Luther Heaton, 54, of Goose Creek was charged with making a threat to kill by explosive.

He said later he was frustrated with the red tape involved in trying to recover a Social Security death benefit, including an instance where a Social Security employee asked to speak to his dead mother to verify the claim.

Heaton called WTMA on Nov. 17 and said "I wouldn't be surprised to see a Ryder truck parked in front of the federal building downtown ... if you know what I mean."

Talk show host Dan Moon and authorities interpreted it as a reference to the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. Heaton was released Wednesday on $10,000 bond.

"It was just a way to blow off steam at people who were treating me like nothing," Heaton told The (Charleston) Post and Courier. "Sure got their attention, didn't it?"

Social Security spokeswoman Patty Patterson would not comment on the Heaton case.

Heaton said his frustration with Social Security started in October 1996, when his mother died.

For a year, Heaton and his 82-year-old father, William S. Heaton, tried to file a claim for the $255 due surviving spouses and dependent children of those receiving Social Security. Several times agency officials said the family had filed the wrong forms or the family did not receive the necessary forms, Heaton said.

One Social Security employee said she needed to speak to Heaton's mother to verify information about her, Heaton said.

When Heaton's father died Nov. 10, Heaton took the death certificate to Social Security, but said a clerk told him he needed to bring in his father for an interview.

Moon said that after the show, someone from Social Security called, seeking both for a tape of the show and when the caller planned to set off the bomb.