Willard man arrested after threatening to shoot up a school and church, assassinate Joel Osteen

WILLARD, Mo. – A Willard man is facing felony charges after saying he planned to shoot up a school and a church and assassinate one of the nation’s most prominent pastors.

On April 27, Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Emily Gold received information that Nathan Elleson had contacted the National Threat Operations Center (NTOC) and said he’d bought a gun and wanted to “shoot up a school,” according to the probable cause statement obtained by The Heartlander.

Elleson reportedly told the NTOC he wanted to carry out the school shooting because he was “disappointed” at the current state of the country. He said he hadn’t yet decided on the specific school or when he would carry out the assault, but then retracted the statements and claimed he wasn’t serious about the attack. 

After learning about the call, Deputy Gold was able to reach Elleson on the phone he used to make the threat. Elleson allegedly denied that the call to NTOC ever happened. 

Then, on the same day he made the call to NTOC, Elleson allegedly sent an email from his personal email address to Life Church that said, “I have plans to shoot up this church this Sunday.” The email was sent to the church’s headquarters in Edmond, Oklahoma, but he was referring to Springfield’s Life Church location.

In response, the church asked for Elleson to be prohibited from its property. Deputy Danny Wroolie, the officer assigned to the case, then learned that Elleson had previously attended Life Church in Springfield and even had his picture taken there on Easter Sunday. 

This wasn’t the first time Elleson threatened a shooting, either. Deputy Gold discovered Elleson had previously texted his parents “several” similar statements, according to official documents. 

“Tomorrow I’m going to the store and buying a gun and I’m gonna shoot people and go to jail [sic] if you don’t report me you’re dead [explicit],” he wrote. “I’m going to do everything in my power to [expletive] destroy you, your reputation in your church and then I’m gonna deny it and say I was hacked. I am going to have (Joel) Osteen assassinated … I’m going to shoot up Lakewood Chapel.” 

Lakewood Chapel is the church Elleson’s parents attend and an affiliate of Joel Osteen’s ministry.

Elleson later wrote, “I am willing to go all the way. I might even buy a gun and shoot people. You have an obligation to report me.”

He also texted one of his parents, identified as “SE” in official records, and admitted to contacting the NTOC with the threat. Elleson was arrested Saturday, April 30 at his residence in Willard, Missouri and transported to Greene County Jail. 

During a post-Miranda interview, Elleson admitted he contacted the NTOC but said he only did so because he was “intoxicated and upset” and never intended to harm anyone, according to official documents.  

In the same interview, Elleson said he didn’t recall sending the email to Life Church, though he didn’t deny it and said he “must have been intoxicated,” Deputy Wroolie said. Elleson confirmed to Wroolie that he attended church services there but said he had no issues with anyone.

During a search of his phone, authorities discovered Elleson had Google-searched “something to the effect of asking if it was illegal to say you were going to shoot someone,” Wroolie said. Elleson told the deputy he was “just curious.”

Elleson is charged with two counts of first-degree terrorist threat and one count of second-degree harassment. His bond hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 5 at 10 a.m. in Greene County. 

Greene County Public Information Officer Paige Rippee told The Heartlander it isn’t likely Elleson will receive a bond because of his first-degree terrorist threat charge, and the fact that he’s expressed plans to move to Georgia for work.

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