By Asia Fields / The Seattle Times
King County prosecutors have charged the suspected leader of Washington’s chapter of the violent neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division with unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of a court order issued under the state’s red-flag law.
Kaleb James Cole, 24, was charged with the gross misdemeanor Monday. A warrant was issued for his arrest in Washington, with bail set at $20,000, according to court documents from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Court documents list his last known address as a residence in Arlington, but officials did not say if they know where he is now. The warrant is nonextraditable, so he can only be arrested in Washington in connection with the charge.
A judge granted Seattle Police Department’s petition for an “extreme risk” protection order against Cole in October, under which his firearms were confiscated and he was banned from possessing guns for a year. A violation of the order could result in a five-year ban under state law.
Seattle officials argued that Cole has recently shown “a pattern of acts or threats of violence” that necessitated removing his weapons. In their petition, police cited his participation in weapons training and recruitment efforts at “hate camps” in Washington, relying heavily on reporting by ProPublica, and his travel to places like the Auschwitz concentration camp. There, he took photos holding an Atomwaffen flag and performing Nazi salutes, which federal officials found on his cellphone.
Washington voters overwhelmingly approved the state’s “red flag” law that allows such orders in 2016, which let police and family members ask a judge to keep firearms out of the hands of people believed to pose a threat to themselves or others. As reported by The New York Times, officials in 17 states that have adopted “red flag” laws have found themselves in uncertain territory, balancing public safety with individuals’ rights.
The order against Cole was granted in King County, but prosecutors here are arguing that he showed “blatant disregard” and violated it when he was pulled over in November by deputies in Texas who said they found multiple assault rifles inside his car. A Washington man in the passenger seat, who officials believe is also a member of Atomwaffen, said the guns were his and is facing a federal gun charge.
In the Texas case, officials said Cole was stopped for speeding on Nov. 4 in the city of Post. The deputies who pulled him over said that they noticed a large knife in the middle console, and that when asked if there were other weapons, passenger Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh said there were rifles in the back. Deputies said the two men gave conflicting answers when asked why they were going to Houston and for how long.
Deputies said they found a skull mask on Cole, which is associated with Affomwatten. They arrested Bruce-Umbaugh after finding marijuana and THC vape cartridges in the car, as well as a handgun and loaded magazine under the passenger seat, two AK-47 rifles, one AR-15 rifle and at least 1,500 rounds of ammunition. According to deputies, Bruce-Umbaugh said that they were all his and that he had built one of the rifles himself.
According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report from last year, when Cole was returning from Eastern Europe, Cole said he was a member of Atomwaffen. He said that he believes in a fascist ideology and that the “strong dominate the weak,” but that he discouraged members from illegal acts.
Atomwaffen is known for recruiting young white men attracted to a violent ideology that idolizes Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups, says Atomwaffen is organized “as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse.” Members of the group and their associates have been linked to multiple killings.
Atomwaffen propaganda has been found in the Seattle area in recent years, including when police found decals around the Seattle University campus in 2017 that referenced a “race war” and said things like, “Hitler was right,” according to records obtained from the Seattle Police Department. Similar decals were found on traffic signs near Temple De Hirsch Sinai and the Seattle Academy of Art and Science last year, according to police.
Cole has no prior criminal history, but he had contact with police in Bellingham after a report that he had neo-Nazi flags and memorabilia in his home in 2015, and in Anacortes for allegedly waving a Nazi flag outside a store in 2012.