Skagit County, WA – Four racially motivated violent extremists from across the U.S. were arrested and charged on Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 in U.S District Court in Seattle with a conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists, the Department of Justice has announced. The arrests and searches by the FBI and local law enforcement agencies are being coordinated by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Seattle, Tampa, Houston, and Phoenix.
“These defendants from across the country allegedly conspired on the internet to intimidate journalists and activists with whom they disagreed,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “This is not how America works. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this type of behavior.”
“These defendants sought to spread fear and terror with threats delivered to the doorstep of those who are critical of their activities,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington. “As Attorney General William Barr has made clear, rooting out anti-Semitic hate and threats of violence and vigorously prosecuting those responsible are top priorities for the Department of Justice.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and FBI-Tampa have been focused on identifying and eradicating the threat posed by the Atomwaffen (AWD) Division both locally and nationally,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “Today’s arrests send a powerful message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal conduct based on hateful ideology. We will continue to work with our partners here in the Middle District of Florida, and elsewhere, to devote our resources to investigate and prosecute those who aim to threaten and terrorize our communities.”
The defendants charged in the conspiracy include:
Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington;
Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas; Formerly of Arlington, Washington
Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida, and
Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona.
According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and others they wanted to intimidate. The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color. Defendants Cole and Shea created the posters, which included Nazi symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening language. The posters were delivered to Atomwaffen members electronically and the coconspirators printed and delivered or mailed the posters to journalists or activists the group was targeting.
According to court documents, the Group came to the attention of Law Enforcement in May of 2017 when D.A. was arrested for murdering two of his roommates near Tampa, Florida. D.A. had been a member of AWD, as were his roommates. According to probable cause affidavits of arrest, after his arrest, D.A. admitted to the murders of his roommates and told investigators he had committed the murders after he had converted to Islam and that the murders were his attempt at keeping the members of AWD from committing planned acts of terror related to the group’s ideology. D.A. claimed AWD had plans to use explosives to damage infrastructure and commit acts of violence.
After D.A.’s arrest, another roommate, B.R., who was a leader of AWD, was encountered by law enforcement at the residence unharmed. In the residence, law enforcement found bomb-making precursor chemicals and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, a high explosive chemical. B.R. admitted the chemicals were his and in May of 2017, B.R. was charged in a federal complaint in Florida with possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of an explosive material. In addition to the explosives, law enforcement discovered a large cache of Nazi paraphernalia, and books popular with neo-Nazis. They also found framed images of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh in B.R.’s bedroom.
Following the arrest of B.R., AWD selected J.D., a resident of Huston, Texas and Kaleb J. Cole, aka Khimaere or Khim, formerly a resident of Arlington, Washington, to co-lead AWD in B.R.’s absence. On January 28th, 2018, AWD hosted a “Death Valley Hate Camp” in Las Vegas, Nevada, where members trained in hand-to-hand combat, firearms, and created neo-Nazi propaganda videos and pictures of themselves posing with weapons. COLE traveled from Arlington, Washington to Las Vegas for the hate camp with another AWD member, A.B. The two possessed concealed pistol licenses and transported numerous firearms and cases of ammunition to the event. A California AWD member was expected to be at this hate camp, but could not attend due to being arrested for murder of an openly gay Jewish college student.
Prior to YouTube removing their pages, AWD posted propaganda videos on two YouTube channels called “AWDTV” and “Atomwaffen Division.” One of those videos titled “Zealous Operation,” depicts a hate camp at Devil’s Tower, an abandoned cement factory in Concrete, Washington. In the video, approximately half a dozen AWD members can be seen wearing military style clothing, face masks, and carrying an assortment of long guns, while conducting paramilitary style training and shooting at a gravel pit attached to Devil’s Tower. At the beginning of the video participants state, “GAS THE KIKES! RACE WAR NOW!” while the statement is spelled out at the bottom of the screen, shown below.
On February 23, 2018, The Seattle Times published an article discussing AWD, and identifying several of its members nationwide, to include some in Washington State. Photographs, along with personally identifiable information, including home and work addresses, were included in the article. The article also discussed the application Discord that members used to facilitate communication. According to the article, several thousand pages of Discord chat logs between members were hacked and leaded to the public. After having been identified, several of the AWD members, to include those in leadership positions, deleted their online profiles, quit their jobs, changed their residences, and moved to the Swiss-based, encrypted electronic communication service Wire, in an attempt to go dark and avoid detection by law enforcement. Cole was one of the AWD members identified in this article, but SHEA’s involvement in the group was not reported at the time.
In September of 2018, COLE posted a recorded leadership message to AWD members via Wire. In the recording, COLE said, “The matter of these nosy reporters coming into our daily lives, where we work, where we live, where we go in our spare time. We must simply approach them with nothing but pure aggression. We cannot let them think that they can just…that that it’s safe for them to just come up to us, and fuck with us. We cannot let them think they are safe in our very presence alone.” This statement was in response to an incident where a journalist confronted a AWD member at a music festival in Texas for the “Documenting Hate” news series.
In addition to COLE, investigation into the group identified an online user, going by the name Krokodil as a Washington based member who was a primary recruiter for AWD. Krokodil was also active in other online forums where he spewed racial violence, and stated how he and other members could “go full McVeigh and start dispatching political and economic targets today, helping build the social tension that will accelerate the collapse of the system” Krokodil had also been planning to attend the AWD Hate Camp at Devils Tower in Concrete but was unable to attend due to medical reasons. Investigators later positively identified “Krokodil” as Cameron Shea of Redmond, WA.
In July of 2019, COLE was interviewed by the FBI when he was deported from Canada to the United States. During the interview, COLE blamed the media for sensationalizing information about AWD and expressed dismay to investigators as to why he was targeted by the media in their stories, and lamented how he was never approached in an attempt to collect accurate information. COLE said he felt the media’s reporting of AWD being a threat to the public was “internet nonsense.”
In August of 2019, leadership members of AWD attended a “Nuclear Congress” in Las Vegas, Nevada, where members discussed recent events, challenges and plans going forward. SHEA spoke at the meeting and discussed the importance of keeping identity protected, and how the media continued to be a challenge for AWD.
On September 26th, 2019, COLE was served with an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) by the Seattle Police Department (SPD). SPD and Arlington Police Department Officers seized nine firearms in COLE’S possession, as well as a number of unfinished lower rifle receivers, capable of being milled into functional rifle components with the equipment COLE owned. In the wake of the ERPO service, several news outlets nationwide covered the event. SHEA, COLE and other AWD members discussed media coverage of the event, with one member suggesting to “hit back…embarrass the enemy on their own front.” COLE then left Washington State and resettled in Texas.
On November 4, 2019, COLE and A.B. were stopped by Law Enforcement for speeding in Post, Texas while on their way to meet with another AWD member, near Huston, Texas. A.B. was arrested for Possession of a Firearm by an Unlawful User of a Controlled Substance. Law Enforcement seized four firearms and approximately 2000 rounds of ammunition. COLE continued to the Houston area to meet with the AWD member.
In November 2019, SHEA participated in a private Wire Chat titled “Operation Erste Saule.” SHEA invited coconspirators to this chat group to collaborate and coordinate an effort to deliver threatening messages to journalists’ homes and media buildings. SHEA described the Operation in a message to the chat group: “We’re coordinating this nationwide Operation called Operation Erste Saule, named after the first pillar of state power, AKA the media. We will be postering journalists homes and media buildings to send a clear message that we too have leverage over time…. The goal, of course, is to erode the media/states air of legitimacy by showing people that they have names and addresses, and hopefully embolden others to act as well.” Based on the review of the group’s wire chats, COLE and SHEA were the primary organizers for Operation Erste Saule. COLE had access to the entire target list, helped to develop threatening posters to leave at the victims’ homes, and made suggestions to the group on who to target, how to find people’s home addresses, and, among other things, how to film the Operation when it happened.
In December 2019, SHEA explained that he wanted to coordinate the Operation on the same night so journalists would be caught off guard, and to accomplish an effective “Show of force, demonstrating we are capable of massive coordination.” Their goal was to “have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda.” Cole also suggested the members buy rag dolls and knives so that participants could leave a doll knifed through the head at their target locations.
In the Seattle area, the posters were mailed to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen and to two individuals associated with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In Tampa, the group targeted a journalist, but delivered the poster to the wrong address. In Phoenix, the poster was delivered to a magazine journalist.
“Today’s announcement serves as a warning to anyone who intends to use violence as intimidation or coercion to further their ideology that the FBI remains steadfast in our commitment to protect Americans from domestic terrorism,” said Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Jill Sanborn. “These nationwide arrests are the result of the robust partnerships among the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Tampa, Seattle, Houston, and Phoenix and we appreciate their collective efforts.”
“The FBI recognizes all citizen’s First Amendment-protected rights. However the subjects arrested today crossed the line from protected ideas and speech to action in order to intimidate and coerce individuals who they perceived as a threat to their ideology of hate,” said Raymond Duda, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Seattle.
“Today’s takedown is proof the FBI in Tampa and our Joint Terrorism Task Force will work tirelessly to ensure communities are rid of hate inspired groups whose goal is to fuel intimidation and violence,” said FBI Tampa Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson.
In 2015, COLE lived in Whatcom County and Bellingham Police received an anonymous tip that his apartment was decorated with “neo Nazi flags and memorabilia throughout his apartment,” according to a copy of the police report. He was also contacted by police in Anacortes, Washington for allegedly harassing a Jewish grocery-store owner by waving a Nazi flag, according to court documents obtained by the investigative-reporting nonprofit ProPublica.
Shea made his initial appearance on the complaint at the federal courthouse in Seattle at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Those arrested in other districts will make their appearances in federal court in those districts and will appear in Seattle on a future date.
The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Seattle, Tampa, Houston and Phoenix.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods with assistance from U.S. Attorneys Offices in the Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Texas, District of Arizona, and Central District of California.
Additional Sources: LiveLeak.com, Justice.gov, Seattle times, ProPublica, FBI Seattle