In the four weeks since a 21-year-old alleged white nationalist was charged in the slaughter of 22 people inside a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, law enforcement authorities have arrested more than 40 people as potential mass shooters — an average of more than one per day.
A HuffPost survey of these arrests likely didn’t capture every one, but it offers a snapshot of the types of cases that law enforcement officials face in a country with easy access to weapons capable of killing a lot of people quickly. The cases range from allegations of vague social media threats from juveniles that set parents on edge to well-developed plots from people who had access to weapons and appeared to authorities to have been planning a mass murder. There were roughly a dozen cases involving right-wing ideology. There were at least a dozen alleged threats against schools. There were half a dozen cases involving alleged threats against Walmarts.
In the wake of El Paso, law enforcement is clearly paying very close attention to threats of mass violence. Our review of court filings reveals that federal law enforcement officials, after El Paso, took investigative steps against a few defendants who had been already been on their radar.
And some of those arrested were inspired by the El Paso attack, according to authorities. The public is paying closer attention as well, as evidenced by the spike in tips to the FBI after that Aug. 3 massacre.
“In the first week in August, the FBI saw an increase in tips submitted to the National Threat Operations Center,” the bureau said in a statement, referring to the FBI component that operates 1-800-Call-FBI and sorts through information submitted to tips.fbi.gov. “Such increases are often observed after major incidents. As always, the FBI encourages the public to remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.”
In a statement after the El Paso attack, the FBI said it “remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence.” That concern was emphasized in a call with the FBI leaders and state and local partners just after the mass shootings in El Paso and, a day later, in Dayton, Ohio, according to the bureau.
A number of the alleged threats, if carried out, would have qualified as instances of domestic terrorism. A top FBI official told reporters this year that domestic terrorism cases were “challenging” for the bureau. The disparate handling of right-wing and Islamic terrorism has set off a debate over the need for a domestic terrorism law, and one prominent lawmaker has introduced such legislation, which has already raised objections from civil liberties advocates.
As of late July, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate committee that the FBI had already been involved in 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests in the first three-quarters of the 2019 fiscal year, which began in October 2018. The rapid pace of new cases suggests that the number of domestic terrorism-related cases in the 2019 fiscal year could outpace the 2017 and 2018 fiscal year figures. Bureau officials said they’ll use any tool they can to take out a potential threat, and a review of the cases suggests the FBI was involved in a number of cases that resulted in local charges.
“It may not be evident in the face of the crime or who’s involved working it that it’s a domestic terrorism suspect who was arrested,” an FBI official previously said. “We use anything [in federal law] we can that fits, that’s appropriate.”
The case of Thomas Bolin illustrates the challenge these cases pose for the FBI. Bolin, a 22-year-old from New York, moderated a white supremacist forum. He was arrested by the FBI after allegedly discussing an attack with his cousin. He posted a photo of himself wearing a mask and holding a gun, then lied to the FBI about his weapon.
Bolin was given a sentence, for lying to the FBI, of time served after spending about three months behind bars and was released early last month. The challenge in finding an applicable federal charge, in part, could help explain why less than a quarter of the arrests surveyed by HuffPost in the past four weeks resulted in federal charges.
The First Week After El Paso
Back in February, FBI agents in Anchorage noticed that a user who went by “ArmyOfChrist” on the web forum iFunny was discussing “supporting mass shooting” and the “assault and/or targeting of Planned Parenthood.” At one point, ArmyOfChrist wrote, “In conclusion, shoot every federal agent on sight.” Subpoenas indicated that a Gmail account associated with the iFunny account was registered to 18-year-old Justin Olsen. The case was reassigned to the FBI’s Youngstown, Ohio, field office on Aug. 2, the day before the El Paso attack. On Aug 7, according to an FBI affidavit, agents found about 10,000 rounds of ammunition, camouflage clothing and camouflaged backpacks, along with about 15 rifles and 10 semiautomatic pistols. Olsen faces a charge of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer.
Daniel Waters, a 22-year-old from Illinois, was arrested for alleged domestic battery on Aug. 7 after a dispute with his mother, according to court records. He was soon charged by state authorities with a felony count of unlawful possession of explosive material. Law enforcement officials, according to a news release, found a “diatribe written by Waters which describes starting a militia and their operations.” Lombard’s police chief thanked the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for its assistance in the case.
Conor Climo, 23, of Las Vegas, an alleged white supremacist who worked as a security guard, first came under FBI scrutiny in April 2019. According to an Aug. 9 affidavit from an FBI special agent who works on the Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force and investigates domestic terrorism and racially motivated violent extremism, an FBI source began interacting with Climo in an encrypted online chat in May.
By mid-July, Climo was allegedly telling an undercover FBI employee posing as an associate of the National Socialist Movement about his plans to attack a Las Vegas synagogue. Several weeks went by, then El Paso happened. Days later, on Aug. 8, the FBI executed a search warrant on Climo’s residence, seizing items they say Climo intended to use to construct a bomb. He faces a federal count of possession of an unregistered firearm for the bomb materials.
On Aug. 8, 20-year-old Dmitry Andreychenko walked into a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri. He allegedly wore body armor and carried a loaded rifle, 100 rounds of ammunition and a handgun. Scared customers at the store called police, who arrived quickly and arrested Andreychenko.
“I wanted to know if that Walmart honored the Second Amendment,” he allegedly explained to police. “His intent was not to cause peace or comfort to anybody that was in the business here,” Springfield Police Lt. Mike Lucas told journalists at the scene. “In fact, he’s lucky he’s alive still, to be honest.”
Police in Weslaco, Texas, with assistance from the FBI, arrested an unidentified 13-year-old male on Aug. 8 after the teen posted a threat to Instagram targeting a local Walmart. The juvenile was brought to police by his mother. Rumors of the threat caused the Walmart to temporarily close. The teen was charged with a felony count of making a terroristic threat.
Richard Clayton allegedly posted an alarming message to Facebook just four days after the El Paso shooting. “3 more days of probation left then I get my AR-15 back,” Clayton, a 26-year-old from Winter Park, Florida, allegedly wrote. “Don’t go to Walmart next week.”
The FBI received a tip about the post, which it passed on to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Authorities arrested Clayton on Aug. 9. According to a police affidavit, Clayton repeatedly asked an arresting officer if he was Hispanic. “They are what is wrong with this country,” he said. “They come in and are ruining everything.”
Clayton is now charged with intimidation through a written threat to kill or do bodily harm, a state-level offense. The affidavit also revealed a series of white supremacist messages Clayton allegedly posted to Facebook. Police stated he posted a swastika to the social media platform in September 2018 and earlier that year wrote: “Imagine for a moment that we’ve established our ethnostate, physically removed all the commies and degenerates, and white birth rates are back in the positives. Who would there be left to make fun of?”
Anthony Reed, 33, was arrested on Aug. 9 after telling a Walmart employee he’d bring a weapon to the store if the remote control car he was buying malfunctioned police said. “I’m serious about my money,” Reed allegedly told the employee. “If I get home and this is broken, I’m going to snap and come back here with a gun.”
Reed was charged with a state felony count of making a false report of using a firearm in a violent manner. According to the police report, Reed could be a sovereign citizen, a type of anti-government extremist who believes they are not subject to U.S., state and local laws.
The Second Week
Police in Harlingen, Texas, arrested Jose Luis Gonzalez Jr. on Aug. 10 after he allegedly posted a threat to Facebook targeting a local Walmart. “Harlingen Walmart will be shot up on August 11,” he allegedly wrote. Gonzalez was charged with making a terroristic threat.
Jeffrey Hanson, a 53-year-old from Connecticut, was arrested on Aug. 10 after allegedly implying a threat of gun violence at a New Haven Puerto Rican festival. Police said Hanson wrote on Facebook that the festival was the reason “we need 30 round magazines.” The FBI assisted with the case. Hanson was charged by state authorities with second-degree breach of peace.
Police in Lake Worth, Florida, arrested 28-year-old Miranda Perez on Aug. 11 for allegedly threatening in a Facebook chat with a friend to shoot up a local school. A police report stated that Perez told her friend during a video chat that “she was going to Facebook friend Zachary Cruz because she likes ‘violent things.’” Cruz is the brother of Nikolas Cruz, the 20-year-old charged with the deadly 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“I’m thinking of doing a school shooting at Barton [Elementary School],” Perez allegedly wrote to the same friend over Facebook messenger. Perez was reportedly upset her children were being sent to the school. She was charged with making a written threat to commit bodily injury.
Authorities in Lamar County, Mississippi, arrested an unidentified 17-year-old male on Aug. 11 after he allegedly posted a threat to shoot up Oak Grove High School. Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said his office received a tip about the threat and an arrest was made a short time later. The teen allegedly posted a photo of a weapon, but an investigation determined he did not have access to that weapon. He’s facing a state charge of making terroristic threats.
Nathan Clark, 25, was arrested in Charles Town, West Virginia, on Aug. 12 after someone alerted authorities to posts Clark allegedly made online threatening to kill people.
“He was posting that he was a ticking time bomb that had already been diffused, that had already been lit and if necessary was going to kill people and was going to hurt people,” Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty told WDVM. Authorities confiscated several PVC pipes and pistols at Clark’s home. He was charged with making terroristic threats.
Scott Greiner, a 57-year-old Kentucky man, came onto the radar of federal authorities after he allegedly told two representatives of a medical contractor over the phone that he was going to turn his local Veterans Affairs medical center into another El Paso, or give it “an El Paso welcome with one or two M-16 rifles.” In the call, Greiner reportedly “expressed empathy and understanding to those who have committed mass shootings,” according to an affidavit from an FBI special agent. Greiner, in an interview on Aug. 13, denied making a threat but admitted he was angry with the VA and told a customer service representative, “You don’t want to have this be another El Paso incident.” Greiner was charged with a federal offense of knowingly transmitting a threat to injure another person via interstate commerce. Greiner made his initial court appearance on Aug. 20 and was assigned a court-appointed attorney. Federal prosecutors requested his pretrial detention.
An unidentified 15-year-old girl in Albert Lea, Minnesota, was arrested on Aug. 13 after allegedly posting a threat on social media to “shoot up” her high school. “She did indicate to us that she didn’t think it was going to be taken seriously and she had no intent,” Sgt. Steve Charboneau told KIMT. Still, the teen now faces felony charges of making threats of violence.
Brian Thomas Keck, 35, was arrested after allegedly threatening to attack a military recruiting center. Police say Keck called the Army recruiting center in Tempe, Arizona, on Aug.13 and threatened to “blow up the recruiting station.” Keck has been charged with communicating a terrorist threat and was held in Tempe City Jail.
Brandon Wagshol, a 22-year-old from Connecticut, was arrested on Aug. 15 and charged with four state charges of illegal possession of large-capacity magazines after a joint investigation that began after an FBI tip. Authorities said he had expressed interest in committing a mass shooting. TPM reported that Wagshol “left a trail of virulently racist and anti-trans postings online. Among his reported tweets were statements like: “I support transgenders’ rights to be some of the first in the gas chambers” and “I hate niggers.”
Police in Fresno, California, arrested an unidentified 15-year-old girl on Aug. 15 after she allegedly made a threat against her high school. The teen is accused of posting a photo to Snapchat of a Walmart display case with rifles inside it. “Don’t come to school tomorrow,” she reportedly wrote. She was charged with making a terrorist threat.
Police in Tupelo, Mississippi, announced the arrest of two unidentified juveniles for allegedly threatening two schools in the area. They are accused of making the threats in a series of text messages sent on Aug. 15, leading to Tupelo Middle and Pierce Street Elementary schools to go on partial lockdown. “These two juveniles are being charged with making careless threats against an educational facility, which is a new state statute,” Pontotoc Police Chief Randy Tutor said at a press conference.
An unidentified 14-year-old male in Tempe, Arizona, was arrested on Aug. 15 after posting a threat to social media targeting schools, local police said. He faces charges of interfering with an educational institution and an additional charge of using an electronic device to terrify, intimidate or harass.
Authorities arrested a 19-year-old Chicago man on Aug. 16 after he allegedly posted threats to kill people at an area Planned Parenthood. Farhan Sheikh faces federal charges of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. According to an FBI affidavit, Sheikh posted messages to the web forum iFunny on Aug. 13 in which he stated: “I am done with my state and thier bullshit abortion laws and allowing innocrnt kids to be slaughtered for the so called ‘womans right’ bullshit. I’ve seen nothing but whores go out of their way to get an abortion, but no more.”
According to the criminal complaint, Sheikh wrote that he would go to the Planned Parenthood on Aug. 23 and “proceed to slaughter and murder any doctor, patient, or visitor I see in the area and I will not back down. consider this a warning for anyone visiting…”
Sheikh also allegedly referenced Justin Olsen in the messages, the 18-year-old Ohio man arrested earlier this month after he also allegedly posted messages to iFunny threatening a Planned Parenthood. “They arrested armyofchrist for no reason but suppressing us and our freedoms” Sheikh wrote, referring to Olsen’s iFunny account name. “I will do the same to these fucking whores who think it’s ‘freedom’ to murder an innocent life. Come after me you degenerate government puppets, stop me if you can…”
Authorities arrested an unidentified 15-year-old male in Ormond Beach, Florida, on Aug. 16 after the teen allegedly posted a message to Discord, a video game app, that he was going to shoot up his school. “I Dalton Banhart,” the teen allegedly wrote, using his online name, “vow to bring my fathers m15 to school and kill 7 people at a minimum.”
Another Discord user tipped off the FBI about the threat. The bureau, in turn, alerted the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, which arrested the teen. The sheriff’s office released a video of the arrest, which shows the teen’s mother pleading that her son is “just a little boy” who didn’t do anything wrong. One of the arresting officers responds that the teen “has hands and feet” and “can grab your gun and do something.” He adds: “This is the world we live in.” The teen is charged with a felony count of threatening to discharge a destructive device.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida also arrested 25-year-old Tristan Scott Wix on Aug. 16 after he allegedly sent text messages about a plot to commit a mass shooting. “a good 100 kills would be nice. I already have a location (laughing cry face emoji) is that bad?” Wix allegedly wrote.
“When you look at this kid’s background, he is the profile of a shooter,” Sheriff Michael Chitwood told CNN after the arrest. “He lost his job, he lost his girlfriend, he’s depressed, he’s got the ammunition and he wants to become known for being the most prolific killer in American history.” There was no evidence of FBI involvement in the arrest.
Thomas Matthew McVicker, a 38-year-old truck driver who allegedly threatened to attack a church in Memphis, Tennessee, was arrested in Indiana on Aug. 16. An FBI affidavit states that the bureau received a tip on Aug. 12 that McVicker had texted a friend that he was “thinking about shooting a church up” but was afraid of how it would affect his family. McVicker texted that someone was putting “spiritual snakes and spiders” in his bed at night and that evil “entities” in his body were torturing him. McVicker’s mother told authorities that he was under treatment for schizophrenia, owned a weapon, and sometimes used cocaine and methamphetamine. McVicker allegedly indicated that he was going to “shoot up” a church in Memphis on Aug. 22, and his employer told authorities that McVicker had requested that day off. He faces a federal charge of interstate transmission of threat to injure.
The Third Week
James Patrick Reardon, a 20-year-old white nationalist who attended the violent alt-right protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, was arrested on Aug. 17 for threats against a Jewish community center in Youngstown, Ohio. Reardon faced state charges of telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing for a July 11 video posted to Instagram that appeared to show him firing a rifle.
The FBI was involved in his case, and federal prosecutors announced a federal count of transmitting threatening communications via interstate commerce against Reardon on Aug. 29. An FBI affidavit stated that authorities found “an MP-40 sub-machine gun…; an AR-15 assault rifle; numerous Nazi World War II propaganda posters; a rifle bayonet; a Hitler Youth Knife; and vintage U.S. military equipment” in his basement. Reardon allegedly told authorities that he met James Alex Fields Jr., the neo-Nazi who killed Heather Heyer, at the 2017 rally in Charlottesville but claimed he was “turned-off by the positions espoused at the rally” despite his possession of a neo-Nazi shield.
Police arrested a 33-year-old Iraq War veteran, Arnold Holmes, in Reed City, Michigan, on Aug. 18 shortly after finding threatening videos Holmes allegedly posted online. Police said that Holmes expressed “potential threatening feelings” against area hospitals, military police, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Ferris State University, where Holmes reportedly once studied.
The former Marine is charged with posting terroristic threats and use of a computer to commit a felony. He also faces a misdemeanor charge of illegal use of a telecommunication device. Family members say Holmes served two tours in Iraq and has struggled with mental health issues ever since.
On Aug. 19, the FBI arrested Eric Lin, a neo-Nazi and supporter of President Donald Trump, for allegedly posting messages about the “extermination” of Latinos.
In late July, the Miami Police Department contacted the FBI about vile messages a Miami-Dade County resident was receiving on Facebook, according to an FBI affidavit. The recipient of the messages showed the FBI more than 150 pages of printed-out messages that contained threats and “pro-Hitler and anti-Hispanic statements,” including a call for the “extermination” of all Hispanics. The woman worked at a restaurant and believed the messages were coming from a frequent customer. On Aug. 8, a few days after the El Paso shooting, the FBI subpoenaed Facebook for information on the accounts that had been harassing the victim.
“I will stop at Nothing until you, your family, your friends, your entire WORTHLESS LATIN RACE IS RACIALLY EXTERMINATED,” he allegedly wrote.“Should I decide to kill all you spics no power on earth is going to stop me,” said another. “I’m cool calm calculating and methodical. I will be carrying a Rifle hand gun and SS my honor is called loyalty dagger.”
The threatening messages apparently continued after the El Paso attack. “I look forward to committing a ‘Genocide,’” he allegedly wrote on Aug. 8, adding that “the Time will come when Miami will burn to the ground [and] every Latin Man be lined up against a Wall and shot and every Latin Woman Raped or Cut to pieces.”
Lin has been charged with interstate transmission of threatening communications.
Police in Maui, Hawaii, arrested 18-year-old Nainoa Gazman Figueroa on Aug. 19 after being alerted to a threatening tweet Figueroa allegedly posted. “Feelin horny might shoot up a school idk yet,” the teen allegedly wrote. Police said Figueroa told them he posted the tweet because he “thought it was funny.” He now faces charges of making terroristic threats.
Daniel Nazarchuk, 37, was arrested in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Aug. 19 for “threatening to blow up various local and federal governmental entities,” the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Nazarchuk also allegedly posted video of himself throwing rocks and damaging the windshield of a sheriff’s vehicle.
Police in Long Beach, California, arrested 37-year-old Rodolfo Montoya on Aug. 20 for allegedly planning a mass shooting at his workplace. Montoya, who works as a cook at a hotel, was allegedly upset about a human resources issue. A co-worker tipped off police about a threat Montoya had made. Police said in a news release that they searched Montoya’s home, where “multiple firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and tactical gear were seized, including high-capacity magazines and an assault rifle, which are illegal to possess in California.”
Police Chief Robert Luna told reporters that “Montoya had clear plans, intent and the means to carry out an act of violence that may have resulted in a mass-casualty incident.” According to the district attorney’s office, Montoya faces two charges of making criminal threats, one charge of illegal possession of an assault rifle (a Colt AR-15) and one charge of dissuading a witness.
Federal authorities arrested Jacob Cooper on Aug. 21 after the 20-year-old allegedly posted threats targeting a Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood office. According to an affidavit, Cooper made the threats on the web forum iFunny on Aug. 13. “Make sure you tell them about how I plan to shoot up a planned parenthood facility in Washington D.C., on August 19th at 3pm,” one of the posts stated. “If you are a member of the FBI, CIA, whatever, and are on my profile I will trace your IP address and kill you if the opportunity arises,” he allegedly wrote in another. “And I am dead serious about this. I’ll do it with ricin, a bomb, or .308.”
Cooper was arrested in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he lives. He’s charged with a federal count of transmitting a threat to injure another.
Brian Groner, 26, was arrested by police in Jefferson, Missouri, on Aug. 22 after making threatening statements on social media. Groner allegedly edited his Facebook bio to read: “Your Next Mass shooter. Columbine won’t have shit on me.” In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado shot and killed 13 of their classmates.
“The Columbine shooters were lame because they only killed 12 people,” Groner allegedly told police during an interview. “I could do better and kill more than 12.” Groner is charged with first-degree terroristic threatening.
Two 13-year-old male students from Alaska were arrested by the Juneau Police Department on Aug. 22 after law enforcement received a report that they were talking about bringing guns to school and shooting people. They each face a state felony charge of terroristic threatening in the second degree.
Authorities in Maine, working with the FBI, arrested 25-year-old Jeremy Hugh Rogers on Aug. 22. Rogers, who faces state charges of terrorizing, terrorizing with a weapon and possession of a weapon by a prohibited person, allegedly sent video messages on Facebook threatening to target a Walmart, which led the store to shut down.
Maryland State Police arrested 26-year-old Brian Knight of Newark on Aug. 23 after he allegedly assaulted people, damaged property and threatened mass violence at the food distribution warehouse where he worked.
Police in Montana charged Austin Jace Fugleberg, a 26-year-old homeless man, with felony intimidation for allegedly making a threat of a mass shooting in communications with his social worker. Fugleberg, who apparently had mental health issues and indicated he was intoxicated at the time of his comments, had mentioned to another person that he was targeting the Ravalli County Fair, according to prosecutors. Fugleberg allegedly made the threats around Aug. 16, was hospitalized and later arrested on Aug. 24.
Police in Cocoa Beach, Florida, arrested 40-year-old Joseph Lee McKinney on Aug. 24 for threatening a mass shooting at a hotel. McKinney, who is from Texas, stayed at a hotel in the area, according to a police affidavit, and was so upset with his stay there that he threatened a mass shooting. “Try to be decent to other human beings because some of us are heavily armed and mentally ill and are on the verge of snapping and wouldn’t it be a shame if they stapled active shooter style in your hotel!” McKinney allegedly wrote in a review of the hotel posted to TripAdvisor.
In an interview with police, according to the affidavit, McKinney claimed he was just angry and never intended to shoot up the hotel. He’s charged with written threats to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism.
Randy Jason Szymanski, 35, was arrested by police in Wildwood, Florida, on Aug. 26 after allegedly posting a threatening message on Facebook. “Hey Ocala Federal Bureau of Investigation I’m gonna bomb a Sun Trans Bus,” Szymanski allegedly wrote. After his arrest, he told police the post was a “joke.” Szymanski, who has a criminal history of violence against women, now faces a felony charge of intimidation.
Police in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, arrested 19-year-old Mathew Conner on Aug. 26 after the student allegedly made threats to attack his high school. Conner allegedly sent anonymous messages to the police department about the attack. “The threat basically stated that if Mathew Conner wasn’t expelled from school, then the school was going to be blown up and kill everyone inside,” Bartlesville Police Sgt Daniel Elkins told KOTV-TV in Tulsa. After his arrest, Conner allegedly told police the threat was simply a ploy to get expelled from school. “He basically said he didn’t enjoy school. Didn’t like being there,” said Elkins. “He was very remorseful; I don’t think he realized the severity of what he was doing.” Conner is facing charges of making terroristic threats.
The Fourth Week
Duval County School Police arrested an unnamed student in Jacksonville, Florida, on Aug. 27 for allegedly making a threat against the school on social media.
Paul Steber, a 19-year-old from Massachusetts who was studying at High Point University in North Carolina, was arrested on Aug. 27 after authorities alleged he plotted a mass shooting.