SEATTLE—If their planning-stage discussions are any indication, the four young men arrested by the FBI this week for threatening journalists and civil rights activists should be at least a little pleased by the amount of publicity their busts for domestic terrorism will generate for the neo-Nazi organization to which they belonged, known as the Atomwaffen Division.
“I believe that if we smash this, we can reap the reward of a nationwide scare,” one of them observed in their chats, adding that their “Operation Erste Säule” (“First Pillar”) would “have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda.”
The foursome—Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington; Kaleb Cole, 24, a former Seattle-area resident now in Texas; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona—were arrested this week for targeting journalists and others with threatening posters delivered to them warning that “You Have Been Visited By Your Local Nazis.”
According to the complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, the four were all Atomwaffen Division members who met online and formed a discreet working group that organized online through the chat platform Wire. The main ringleaders were Shea and Cole, the latter of whom resided in suburban Snohomish County until a warrant was issued for his arrest by King County authorities in December on weapons possession charges, based on an incident in Texas.
Another leading Atomwaffen member, John Cameron Denton of the Houston, Texas, area, was also arrested on Wednesday by the FBI. He was charged with attempting to terrorize the New York newsroom of Pro Publica, which published a major expose of the group in February 2018, and the journalist who was its primary author.
Shea (who was also active in the online neo-Nazi terror group The Base) and Cole designed most of the posters, which featured such ominous warnings as “Your Actions Have Consequences / Our Patience Has Limits,” “We Are Watching / We Are No One / We Are Everyone / We Know Where You Live / Do Not Fuck With Us,” and “Two Can Play At This Game / These People Have Names and Addresses.”
In their chats, they discussed seeking out the home addresses of key journalists who reported on their activities so that they could “simply approach them with nothing but pure aggression. We cannot let them think 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.”
On one chat forum, Shea told his colleagues he wanted to “go full McVeigh and start dispatching political and economic targets today, helping build the social tension that will accelerate the collapse of the system.”
In addition to designing and distributing the posters, the four men discussed how to avoid detection—using only black-and-white printers, avoiding licking stamps, wearing medical gloves—before they put the posters in the mail. They planned for their “Operation” to take place during a single night as “a show of force, demonstrating we are capable of massive coordination.”
The FBI warned potential targets they could identify; however, some targets who were not warned nonetheless received posters. The targets included a journalist for KING-TV in Seattle; two activists affiliated with the Seattle office of the Anti-Defamation League; Jewish and black journalists in the Phoenix, Arizona, area; and a black family in the Tampa, Florida, area, whose home was mistakenly identified by the terrorists as belonging to a Tampa reporter who had published stories about Atomwaffen.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle said Shea’s first court hearing was Wednesday afternoon.
“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 Moran. “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.”
“Today’s announcement serves as 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,” added assistant director for counterterrorism Jill Sanborn.