The Justice Department on Wednesday announced a series of nationwide arrests of members of the white nationalist group, Atomwaffen, as the FBI steps up its policing of neo-Nazi groups in the U.S.
John Denton, the former leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, was arrested n the Eastern District of Virginia for his alleged role in coordinating several "swatting events" that targeted a university, a Baptist church and a news organization, among others.
According to a criminal affidavit, Denton allegedly conspired with others to make prank calls through the encrypted app Mumble in order to trick law enforcement dispatchers into believing Denton's intended targets were in imminent danger of death or causing harm to others, often generating significant emergency responses to unwitting individuals or groups.
The targets included an unidentified Cabinet official living in Virginia, Old Dominion University, Alfred Street Baptist Church, the New York City office of ProPublica and an investigative journalist for ProPublica.
"Denton allegedly chose the two targets because he was furious with ProPublica and the investigative journalist for publishing his true identity and discussing his role in Atomwaffen Division," the affidavit says.
In a separate indictment unsealed in the Western District of Washington, four members of the group were arrested in four different states for allegedly targeting journalists and members of the Anti-Defamation League who had outed Atomwaffen’s behavior.
Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington; Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona, were all charged in the conspiracy.
The posters sent to journalists allegedly showed an image of a reporter with a message that read "Two can play at this game," and, "Death to pigs." The men allegedly used encrypted online chat groups to identify journalists they wanted to intimidate.
Shea, one of those arrested, was identified as a high-level member and primary recruiter for Atomwaffen, who coordinated a "Death Valley Hate Camp" in Las Vegas in January 2018, where members of the group "trained in hand-to-hand combat, firearms, and created neo-Nazi propaganda videos and pictures of themselves posing with weapons," according to federal prosecutors.
As a part of their harassment operation, one member of the group suggested picking targets on the Society of Professional Journalists online directory. One responded that he had picked out "three targets, and one was Jewish." Garza, identified in the indictment, wrote back that he "had found a leader of a 'association of black journalists' in his state."
Cole, one of the Atomwaffen members charged Wednesday, also suggested the group could buy "rag dolls and knives" so the group would leave "a doll knifed through the head at their target locations."