HOUSTON — The arrests of two alleged neo-Nazis in Montgomery County Wednesday have shed light on a violent group most people have never heard of.
Federal investigators say John Cameron Denton, 26, led the hate group called Atomwaffen from his home in the small town of Montgomery. His roommate, 24-year-old Kaleb Cole, is a member.
Atomwaffen, which is a German for “atomic weapon,” formed in 2016. They cite Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson and Timothy McVeigh as their inspiration.
Denton is accused in multiple “swatting” cases in Virginia. The feds say he and others made fake emergency calls to trigger a large police response. Their targets included journalists and federal officials.
Cole faces federal charges of threatening and cyberstalking people the group didn't like.
Cole was already on the FBI’s radar and had been named in an Extreme Risk Protection Order last October in Washington. In the civil paperwork, prosecutors and the FBI convinced a judge that Cole “poses a serious threat to public safety by having access and possession to firearms and a concealed pistol license.”
That order allowed police to use Washington's red flag law to seize several military-style firearms and other weapons from Cole without filing criminal charges.
Authorities claim Cole had been amassing firearms and training with weapons in western Washington.
“We actually, I firmly believe, prevented a massacre,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes told KING 5.
Cole moved to Texas sometime after this weapons were seized.
'White supremacists on steroids'
According to an investigation by ProPublica, Atomwaffen leaders encourage violence.
“The views that they articulate are white supremacists on steroids," Joanna Mendelson, who follows extremist groups for the Anti-Defamation League, told NPR in 2018. "And what is the change they want to see? Real-world violence. Real-world apocalyptic violence.”
And it’s not just talk.
ProPublica reports three young men linked to Atomwaffen are connected to five murders in California, Florida and Virginia.
Blaze Bernstein was a 19-year-old college student who was stabbed to death in California in January of 2018.
Samuel Woodard, now 22, is charged with killing Bernstein, a high school classmate. Prosecutors believe it was a hate crime, saying Bernstein was openly gay and Jewish.
After the murder, Woodard was cheered by other members of Atomwaffen, according to online chat records obtained by ProPublica.
Scott and Buckley Fricker were gunned down in their Reston, Virginia home a few days before Christmas in 2017. Prosecutors say their 16-year-old daughter’s boyfriend killed them because they wanted her to end the relationship after discovering he was a neo-Nazi. Nicholas Giampa’s tweets to their daughter included references to Atomwaffen, according to the Washington Post.
The strangest case involved four Tampa, Florida roommates who were members of Atomwaffen, according to court records.
One of them, 19-year-old Devon Arthurs, told police he killed two of his roommates with an assault rifle in 2017 when they made fun of him for converting to Islam, NPR reported. Arthurs spent a year in a Florida mental hospital before he was ruled competent to stand trial for murder.
The fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, was a co-founder of Atomwaffen Division. He wasn’t involved in the murders, but police later arrested him after they found bomb-making materials in his garage. The former member of the Florida National Guard is serving time in federal prison.
Three other suspected members of Atomwaffen were arrested this week in Washington.
Cameron Brandon Shea, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe and Johnny Roman Garza are accused of using an encrypted online chat group to identify people they wanted to intimidate, including a reporter with KING 5, our sister station in Seattle.
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