Stephen “Kiwi” Parshall was upset that the previous night’s protests in Las Vegas had not turned violent, authorities say. So on May 30, he huddled with his associates in a parking lot, ahead of another demonstration, and started tearing a rag into strips. He was assembling Molotov cocktails, the feds allege.
But one of his friends was a confidential FBI source, who’d been watching for months as Parshall and two others made plans for violence against the government. A SWAT team descended, arresting the men.
That was three weeks ago. And on Wednesday, the government hit back hard: Parshall, along with two of his alleged brothers in arms, now face dual grand jury indictments — state and federal — for allegedly seeking to start a violent uprising against the government, using the Black Lives Matter protests as cover.
Parshall, Andrew Lynam and William Loomis face a federal indictment alleging a conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive, as well as possession of unregistered explosives. The state grand jury levied further terrorism and explosives charges against the men. The trio are currently in federal custody.
Reached by phone Thursday, Parshall’s attorney Robert M. Draskovich said his client looked forward to exonerating himself in court.
“The majority of this case is based upon a narrative provided to the government by a cooperating witness,” he said. “Cooperating witnesses, by their very nature and circumstances, are unreliable sources. There’s very little FBI involvement in this case.”
Though Draskovich said Parshall denies involvement with any kind of right-wing extremist group, authorities say the three men, all with military backgrounds, are part of the “boogaloo” movement, which agitates for armed conflict with the government.
The term, boogaloo, grew from a sarcastic internet meme about a second Civil War to actual violence: Two California men who authorities say are boogalooers currently face federal charges for the alleged murder of a Federal Protective Services officer in Oakland; one of them is also accused of the ambush killing of a sheriff’s deputy a week later.
The movement’s adherents don’t think a “boogaloo” is inevitable, said Howard Graves, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Rather, Graves said, “they actually think it’s desirable, and they want to bring about conditions that would create civil strife, in which they can get into a gun fight with federal law enforcement.”
The George Floyd protests, Graves said, were “nothing more than a theater” for a potential shoot-out.
The Nevada arrests, a day after the Oakland killing, offers a window inside the viral movement to destabilize the U.S. government.
In the criminal complaint filed earlier this month, an FBI agent laid out the details: A confidential source for the bureau met Lynam and Parshall, who were members of a “Boogaloo” Facebook group, at an early April rally to “reopen” Nevada from COVID-19 restrictions.
From there, the source kept tabs on the men as they allegedly planned attacks on government buildings and critical infrastructure.
It’s a timeline of starts and stops: In late April, Lynam allegedly proposed a complicated “test run” attack on a U.S. Forest Service ranger station, but the attack never happened. Then in May, he and Parshall allegedly contemplated setting off fireworks, smoke bombs and noisemakers at “reopen” protests in order to cause chaos and seed a confrontation between protesters and police — but they hesitated and didn’t carry out the plan.
Finally, later in the month, Parshall, Loomis and the FBI’s source allegedly scouted a power substation in Las Vegas for an attack. With fireworks, gasoline and an accelerant, the plan allegedly went, they’d firebomb the power converter in the substation and plunge Las Vegas into darkness and rioting.
But the ongoing protests over Floyd’s killing offered another option.
After allegedly expressing frustration that a May 29 protest didn’t devolve into violence, authorities say Parshall told the FBI source that he had materials for Molotov cocktails. The following night, per the complaint, the source watched him rip rags into strips and discuss the mechanics of molotov cocktails. Lynam allegedly discussed using them against police.
Then, the SWAT team swept in and arrested the men.
A quick scan of the trio’s vehicles and subsequent searches turned up an inventory: Rifles, shotguns, ammunition, fireworks, gasoline, hairspray glass jars and body armor, according to the complaint against the men.
As with other “boogaloo” arrestees in recent weeks, the trio in Nevada appeared intent in sowing chaos.
According to the complaint, Lynam and Parshall said in May that they wanted to loosely follow the Irish Republican Army’s “Green Book.” The Green Book is a training manual of sorts for armed struggle against an occupying government.
They also allegedly talked about using fireworks, smoke bombs and noisemakers at protests in order to “cause panic to the police and public, in hopes that it causes others to take some type of action,” and to encourage “some type of confrontation between police and the protesters.”
Graves, the SPLC analyst, said the number of “boogaloo” adherents is small, but “it almost doesn’t matter to them that they are part of a minority of people.”
“It’s not a plurality of Americans that hold these views,” he added, “but they believe that there are enough of them that they can sort of get the ball rolling, and once that’s moving downhill, it’ll pick up too much inertia to stop.”
The accusations against the men echoed an alleged Facebook message from Steven Carrillo, the man charged in California with killing the federal and state law enforcement officers: “Use their anger to fuel our fire,” he said of protesters. “Think outside the box. We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage.”