Associated Press and Herald staff
SEATTLE — Members of a neo-Nazi group, including a former Arlington resident, have been arrested and charged with conspiring to harass journalists, churches and a former Cabinet official, among others, with phony bomb threats and other forms of intimidation.
Prosecutors in Seattle announced charges against four alleged members of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division for cyber-stalking and mailing threatening communications to journalists, including Swastika-laden posters telling them, “You have been visited by your local Nazis.”
The accused are Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas, and formerly of Arlington, Washington; Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona.
Meanwhile, in a separate federal case, John C. Denton, 26, of Montgomery and a former leader of Atomwaffen, was arrested Wednesday and charged in Alexandria, Virginia, with a series of phony bomb threats made in Virginia and elsewhere.
Prosecutors say the targets of the bogus bomb threats included a predominantly African-American church, an unidentified Cabinet official living in northern Virginia, and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Court records do not identify the Cabinet official, but public records show that then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was a victim of a fake call that drew police to her home in Alexandria in January 2019, when the alleged “swatting” conspiracy was active.
The Seattle charges implicate four alleged Atomwaffen members, including Cole, for their roles in a plot they dubbed Operation Erste Saule. Authorities say in a criminal complaint that journalists and an employee of the Anti-Defamation league received posters in the mail with warnings, including “Your Actions have Consequences” and “We are Watching.”
“These defendants sought to spread fear and terror with threats delivered to the doorstep of those who are critical of their activities,” said Brian Moran, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.
According to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the four “conspired via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and others they wanted to intimidate,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
“The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color,” the news release said. “Defendants Kaleb Cole and Cameron Shea created the posters, which included Nazi symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening language. The posters were delivered to Atomwaffen members electronically, and the co-conspirators printed and delivered or mailed the posters to journalists or activists the group was targeting.”
In the Seattle area, the posters were mailed or delivered to addresses in Edmonds, Seattle and Mercer Island. Recipients included KING-TV’s Chris Ingalls, who had reported on Atomwaffen, and two individuals associated with the Anti-Defamation League.
According to the charges, last September Seattle and Arlington police seized nine firearms belonging to Cole at a residence in Arlington. News coverage of the event inspired discussion among the group of the need to “hit back” at news media. “Cole then left Washington state and resettled in Texas,” the criminal complaint says.
Shea, of Redmond, was to make an initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon. Those arrested in other districts, including Cole, were to appear in federal court in those districts and will appear in Seattle on a future date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Said state Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, whose legislative district includes Arlington: “Every form of violence and racism should be condemned. It saddens me the division caused by groups like this. I am grateful law enforcement apprehended these individuals before any harm was done.”
In Virginia, Denton has been identified as a former leader of a group called Atomwaffen Division, which has been linked to multiple killings. Authorities say the group is seeking to incite a race war.
He is one of several alleged Atomwaffen Division members to face federal charges in recent months and is the second person charged in Alexandria in relation to the swatting calls in Virginia. The name is derived from the heavily armed strategic weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams some departments deploy in potentially dangerous situations.
According to an affidavit unsealed Wednesday, Denton specifically chose two targets in the swatting scheme: the New York offices of ProPublica, an online investigative news outlet, and a ProPublica journalist. The affidavit states Denton was angry at ProPublica and the journalist for exposing his role as an Atomwaffen leader.
Denton admitted to an undercover FBI agent that he participated in the swatting calls to ProPublica and the ProPublica journalist, and used a voice changer when he made calls, according to the affidavit.
In the swatting call targeting the ProPublica journalist, a conspirator pretending to be the reporter called police in Richmond, California, and told 911 that he had killed his wife and would shoot any officers who came to the home. Police who responded to the home placed the reporter and his wife in separate police cruisers while the couple’s young son was in the home before the hoax was sorted out.
The swatting calls occurred in 2018 and 2019. Members of the conspiracy conducted more than 100 swatting calls throughout the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, according to the affidavit. The affidavit describes Denton as a founding member of Atomwaffen Division who used the names “Rape” and “Tormentor” in online conversations while holding a day job as a mortuary worker.
On Friday, another alleged Atomwaffen member, Andrew Thomasberg, faces sentencing in Alexandria, Virginia, for unrelated weapons crimes.