It’s just the most recent of the fast-accumulating incidents in which the American right’s anti-LGBTQ hysteria is whipping up violence: A Whidbey Island, Washington, man who had been making threatening remarks to his gay neighbors, and posting comments on social media talking about his desire to kill gays and to attack a nearby Pride parade with his semiautomatic rifle, was arrested on Friday by Oak Harbor police on a $1 million warrant, the day before the event.
It shortly emerged that not only was 27-year-old Tyler Dinsmoor a Navy veteran who had settled into the community after serving at Whidbey Island Naval Station, but is a devoted member of a western Washington church where the pastor, Aaron Thompson, regularly demands the death penalty be levied and enforced against the LGBTQ community.
Oak Harbor police and prosecutors said they arrested Dinsmoor less for his threats against the Pride event—which they had deemed too vague to constitute a “direct threat”—but chose to charge him with malicious harassment (Washington’s version of a hate crime) for the threats he directed against his neighbors.
The charging documents indicated the basis of the arrest was remarks he directed against the neighbor on June 14. She had been returning home from the grocery store with her wife when he yelled at them: “It used to be legal to kill gay people!”
The woman, who lived next to a rental property that Dinsmoor owns, said she said nothing in response, but instead just went inside with her wife and told her children not to go outside. A few days later, she said that Dinsmoor returned to the neighboring property, this time carrying a handgun on his hip.
Prosecutors said those remarks placed “that group of persons in reasonable fear of harm,” and were motivated by bias against their sexual orientation, both of which violate Washington’s malicious-harassment law.
But when police went to arrest Dinsmoor on Friday, they descended in full force: With two federal agencies, multiple armored vehicles, a negotiating team and a police helicopter. Oak Harbor Police Chief Kevin Dresker told the Whidbey Island News-Times that the massive show of law enforcement was primarily due to the nature of Dinsmoor’s social-media output—as well as the fact they knew he was well-armed.
Over the previous month, Dinsmoor’s online homophobia had grown increasingly violent, particularly his posts on Gab, the white-nationalist-friendly chat forum where he spent most of his social-media time. He posted memes demanding “Death Penalty for Fags” and warned early in June that he “was 9mm away from fedposting [shooting] two faggots at home depot yesterday.” He added: “Pray for me bros, I might not make it through this fag month.”
According to the warrant issued in the case, Dinsmoor in May started focusing on last Saturday’s Pride Parade in Anacortes, about 20 miles from Oak Harbor, and asked his friends on Gab to “talk me out of it.”
On May 2, Dinsmoor posted a Photoshopped picture of a white man pointing a handgun at a group of people waving and holding a Pride flag.
A few weeks later, he laid out his range of far-right views, including his underlying antisemitism:
I am Tyler and the Jews are responsible for just about every bad thing in this world, they are agents of Satan and deserve severe punishment for their nefarious deeds. They will go to hell. All homosexuals are child-rapists in wait, and all (every single one) should be put to death immediately. They will go to hell. Adulterers should be put to death, with no exceptions. White people are not responsible for the bad behavior of blacks, and the best case scenario is that we live separately, in our own nations. There is nothing more useless that a ‘career woman’—it’s an abomination.
The detective investigating the June 14 incident wrote that she believes Dinsmoor is “an extreme risk to the public, especially the upcoming Pride events in the area.” She recommended Dinsmoor be ordered to submit to a psychological evaluation if he’s released.
It soon emerged that Dinsmoor’s radicalization was a product of an evangelical church he attends that preaches that homosexuality is a capital crime—namely, Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Vancouver, Washington, which is led by Pastor Aaron Thompson. Podcast Hemant Mehta found that was Dinsmoor such an ardent member that he was willing to make the five-hour drive to Vancouver to attend services, camping overnight at a nearby state park with his family the night before and then driving back the next day.
Sure Foundation is part of the New Independent Fundamental Baptist (New IFB) network, a rabidly anti-LGBTQ Baptist offshoot founded by hate preacher Steven Anderson. On his archived website, as analyst J.J. McNabb noted, Dinsmoor acknowledged that Anderson’s preaching had first radicalized him four years ago: “I was saved to Christ in 2018 after stumbling across some hard preaching snippets by Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church against fags and the holocaust,” he wrote.
Thompson, as Mehta has documented, tells his flock that teachers who encourage "the filth of sodomy" should be "shot in the back of the head." But he insists that he only wants the executions to occur at the hands of government officials. He clarifies that if any Christian acts on this outside the law, "they didn't get that idea from me."
Thompson’s hardly the only New IFB pastor preaching this kind of openly eliminationist hate. His son-in-law, Dylan Awes, recently told a congregation in Texas: “Every single homosexual in our country … should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head!” (Awes is married to Thompson’s daughter Jassamyn.)
Evangelical hate preachers have particularly targeted Pride events this year. In Idaho, a loud campaign of vicious rhetoric by far-right extremists depicting the organizers of the annual Coeur d’Alene Pride gathering as “groomers,” pedophiles, and satanists, which attracted a motley crew of white supremacists, “Patriots,” Christian nationalists, and hate preachers who circulated around the lakeside city park where the event was held. It all culminated with the arrests of 31 neofascist Patriot Front marchers outside the park before they could make their planned attack on the gathering.
After police arrested Dinsmoor, right-wing activists exploded in outrage. White-nationalist “super troll” Joseph Camp—a convicted felon and hacker who specializes in harassing and doxxing anyone he deems a liberal or leftist worthy of attack—began threatening the neighbor who complained:
I will be filing A LOT of public records requests to identify the whore neighbor and we are going to send her A LOT of hurty words from jurisdictions that don’t give a shit about hurty words and not near Oak Harbor Pig Department.
His post included the police captain’s phone number.
The white-nationalist site VDare jumped on the bandwagon in his defense as well:
For the crime of being a White Christian and posting scripture with some spicy (but legal) commentary, Tyler Dinsmoor is being held in county jail on an astronomically high $1,000,000 bail. He is being held in solitary confinement.
In reality, Washington law is quite strict about making threats. Its harassment law makes it illegal to threaten to hurt someone, say you will damage someone else’s property, or threaten to restrain or confine anyone. Intent is not the issue; the laws specify that there has to be a reasonable belief on the part of the alleged victim that the accused would have or could have actually carried out the threatened action.
Its malicious-harassment law stiffens the penalties for anyone engaging in such conduct with a bias motivation—including bigotry against the LGBTQ community.