"If this is an attack on a federal employee, I can assure you that no resources will be spared to find the perpetrators," John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said Thursday morning, according to the Washington Post. "We cannot tolerate essentially domestic terrorism, if that is what it is."
Government officials and law enforcement personnel are already on alert after a series of incidents this spring and summer that fell into the domestic terrorism category, including the shooting of a guard at the Holocaust Memorial in Washington.
As the Census Bureau gets ready to employ some 1.2 million people to canvas the US for the 2010 census next year, news of Sparkman's death is raising concerns for workers' safety. The Census Bureau has already suspended operations in rural Clay County, where Sparkman died.
Some Democrats – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Jimmy Carter – have voiced concern recently about heated rhetoric and whether it fuels racism and political violence. (Sparkman is white.)
Conservatives are not as quick to raise red flags, saying it's a far stretch to connect feisty political dissent with violent acts.
"The FBI will have to answer the question of whether 'antigovernment sentiment' had anything to do with Bill Sparkman's death," writes Shannon Bell, on the Right Pundits blog. "One can only hope that this isolated incident will not result in those who speak out against the government being lumped in with a killer."