Some members of Sen. Rand Paul's loyal group of Libertarian followers were outraged Tuesday after the Kentucky Republican said he would be fine with a drone strike killing an American citizen robbing a liquor store with a gun.
"We shouldn't be willy-nilly, looking into their backyard at what they're doing. But if there is a killer on the loose in a neighborhood, I'm not against drones being used to search them out, heat seeking devices being used," Paul said in an interview on Fox Business Network.
"If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him," he added later.
The question arose in relation to the manhunt last week for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Tsarnaev was born in Kyrgyzstan but became a U.S. citizen in 2012.
Paul's hypothetical scenario angered some fans, who loudly supported Paul when he took to the Senate floor in March to question whether the U.S. government believes it had the authority to carry out drone attacks against American citizens on U.S. soil.
"No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court," Paul said at the beginning of his 13-hour filibuster, which stalled the nomination of John Brennan to become CIA director. He was eventually confirmed.
The filibuster ended when Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Paul that the president does not have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.
While Paul has acknowledged in the past that an imminent threat could be cause to use a drone to kill an American, the specific situation he noted in the interview - an armed robbery of a liquor store - seemed to some of his fans as too low a threat.
"I am stunned by Rand's statement. Unmanned killers in our skys O.K.??? Really?" one poster wrote on a message board in the Daily Paul, a website for fans of both Rand Paul and his father Ron, the former Texas congressman and presidential candidate.
"The guy is simultaneously capable of great good and evil it seems. Scares me. What are our alternatives? I don't know but, I am looking," the poster wrote.
On his official Facebook page, fans issued similar criticism.
"If someone robs a liquor store, they get due process. Who decides who is guilty? The drone navigator?" one poster asked.
"Which is it Senator Paul?! Where do you stand?! This sickens me! I was just beginning to believe in you, too!" another chimed in.