Five alleged members of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen were hit with federal charges Wednesday for threatening journalists, minorities and employees at the anti-Defamation league.
Among those targeted were journalists for ProPublica and Seattle-area television station KING 5 who had reported on the neo-Nazis, prosecutors alleged.
The group — which celebrates Hitler, Charles Manson and the American neo-Nazi James Mason — has been tied to several murders. Federal authorities have cracked down on neo-Nazis in recent weeks with a string of arrests, including against another neo-Nazi group known as “The Base.” Three members of the base were arrested in Georgia last month on conspiracy murder charges.
Around the same time, three others were arrested on gun and immigration-related crimes; two American Base members are accused of harboring a Canadian member of the group whose identify was exposed by a journalist.
Atomwaffen’s former leader, John Cameron Denton, was charged in the Eastern District of Virginia with “swatting” — or calling in fake threats in the name of — a ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson along with several others. Alfred Street Baptist Church, a well-known African-American church, was also swatted.
“Denton was furious with ProPublica the victim because they published his true identify and discussed his role in Atomwaffen,” the affidavit read, a reference to the reporting that identified the neo-Nazi. Thompson can be seen confronting Denton and asking for an interview, which Denton declines, at around 43 minutes into the PBS documentary.
John William Kirby Kelley, who was charged last month, was named as a co-conspirator in the affidavit against Denton. And Denton, who went by the online moniker “Rape,” was accused of participation in swatting instances for which Kelley was charged, including one against Old Dominion University.
“There were many other co-conspirators,” including U.S. citizens and foreigners, the affidavit alleged, without naming them for the purposes of “protect[ing] the ongoing investigation.” In all, authorities identified hundreds of swatting calls they associated with the co-conspirators.
Denton admitted swatting in a conversation with an undercover FBI agent, according the affidavit. In a conversation with the agent, Denton allegedly said it would be beneficial for Atomwaffen if Denton was “raided” for the swatting attacks — first, because of the severity of the crime, and second, because reports of his arrest may spawn copycats. A second journalist who worked on the ProPublica stories, the British reporter Jake Hanrahan, appeared to recognize himself in the affidavit.
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) February 26, 2020
The affidavit included transcriptions of online conversations between the co-conspirators allegedly narrating the swatting attacks.
“Just told them to get back … or else I kill the kids,” the unnamed co-conspirator 1 messaged to his conspirators on Nov. 8 after saying he’d claimed to police that he — assuming the identity of his victim — had “shot his gf with an ar15.”
In one alleged instance last January, a member of the swatting group allegedly called the Alexandria Police Department and provided the address of a Cabinet secretary and Secret Service protectee, claiming they had an AR-15 and had killed his girlfriend, detained her two children, and was prepared to detonate a pipe bomb.
“The APD contacted the USSS, who informed the APD that these events had not taken place and that there was no need to respond to the Cabinet official’s home,” the affidavit said.
Across the country, the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, Brian Moran, announced charges against four other members of the group — Caleb Brandon Shea, Kaleb J. Cole, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe and Johnny Roman Garza — for targeting a local journalists in Seattle, Tampa, Arizona and at the Anti-Defamation League’s Northwest Regional Office.
At a press conference, Moran pointed to a swastika-covered poster that featured a reference to a journalist surrounded by a neo-Nazi mob with the words, “Two can play at this game … These people have names and addresses.”
“Your actions have consequences,” another poster read. “Our patience has its limits.”
The posters featured a blank box at their base, which, according to the complaint against the men, was meant to be filled in with the victim’s address. “You have been visited by your local Nazis,” a text below the boxes reads.
“Imagine waking up some morning and finding this at your house, Moran said.
In Arizona, per the complaint, Garza targeted both a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists and the editor of a local Jewish publication with the posters.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Moran noted that a KING5 journalist allegedly targeted by the neo-Nazis “did a very comprehensive exposé of their activities.”
“KING 5 Investigator Chris Ingalls received a threatening letter that included several elements of Atomwaffen propaganda,” KING5 reported Wednesday. “Seattle FBI agents took the letter to use as evidence in the ongoing case.”
“I’ll be looking over my shoulder for a long time,” Mr. Ingalls told The New York Times.