Naval Criminal Investigative Service has launched a criminal investigation into online threats against the Navy ensign who complained of anti-gay harassment by superiors, the ensign told FoxNews.com.
The threats were posted on a Naval Aviation-themed blog called AirWarriors.com and began following media reports about Naval Inspector General's investigation into Ensign Steve Crowston's allegations, which led to an investigation into the regional inspector general's office who dismissed Crowston's complaints.
Crowston says he met with NCIS investigators for six hours on Thursday and during the meeting he was told that an official criminal investigation had been launched in cooperation with Virginia Beach Police Department.
NCIS officials declined to comment for this story.
On early Saturday morning, a man identifying himself online as Flugelman posted a photo on the AirWarriors.com of a naked man tied to a tree titled “Tree of Woe.” The caption above the photo read, “Send the Fagmiester back to the Goatlocker. We'll take care of him/her/it..."
The caption referenced one of the call sign names suggested by Crowston's fellow squadron mates -- the beginning of what Crowston calls months of anti-gay harassment.
A friend of Crowston's found the post online and alerted him.
"Obviously I was shocked to see it, I was actually so shocked I stepped back from my computer," Crowston said. "It led me to believe it was an active threat."
"I believe in freedom of speech but I believe this threat was overboard and I was extremely concerned that whoever posted this and others would carry out this threat."
The photo was posted by someone with the username Flugleman. According to his profile, he is 67, ATCS [Senior Chief Aviation Electronics Technician] USN (Ret.) ’82, Aircrew VP’s and VR’s. He lists his current location as “Back in the MEtroMess…”; says he’s a retired software engineer who enjoys “travel, shooting, computers, golf, golf and golf.”
His favorite quote is: “Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.”
His signature is, “We don’t hang men for stealing horses, we hang them that horses may not be stolen.”
NCIS Supervisory Special Agent Gregory Gill, Crowston's case agent, declined to comment when reached by phone. An NCIS spokesman also declined to comment.
FoxNews.com previously reported on Crowston's allegations, which were deemed unfounded by a regional inspector general. The investigators behind the initial report are being investigated by Navy IG for their handling and dismissal of the initial complaint.
Crowston, 36, said the harassment began at Strike Fighter Squadron 136 at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Va., in August 2009, when his fellow officers called him into a room for a review of call signs, a military moniker that easily identifies a service member. He says his name was written on a whiteboard with a list of call sign recommendations: “Cowboy,” “Gay Boy,” “Fagmeister,” “Cowgirl,” “Romo’s Bitch,” “TO,” “Terrell Owens” and “Redskins.”
Call signs can be used in official military correspondence and in radio calls, and the names often get printed onto clothing and can follow someone throughout their career.
Crowston – who would not disclose his sexual orientation – says his commanding and executive officers were in the room and participated in the group vote, picking “Romo’s Bitch.”
The six-page official complaint, filed in February and obtained by FoxNews.com, also includes a slew of additional accusations involving the misuse of government funds and property and other improprieties by the squadron commander and officers.
In May, the Naval Air Force Atlantic IG’s office found Crowston’s sexual harassment allegations unsubstantiated and closed the case.
Crowston contends that Beverly Bilger, the inspector general charged with investigating his claims of sexual harassment and workplace hostility, was biased by a previous familiarity with the commander named in the complaint.
The Naval Inspector General – which oversees the Naval Air Force Atlantic IG’s office – has reopened Crowston’s case and launched an investigation into the way the complaint was initially handled.
Bilger has declined to comment when contacted by FoxNews.com.