Four men alleged to be part of a neo-Nazi group were arrested Wednesday and charged with a conspiracy to intimidate journalists and activists by sending threatening posters to their homes, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
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, have all been arrested. They stand accused of conspiring to "threaten journalists and activists, particularly Jews and other minorities, with the intent to cause fear and bodily harm, harass, intimidate, and retaliate against unfavorable reporting," according to the criminal complaint against them.
Prosecutors say all four men were members of a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. According to the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, the group materialized in 2016 out of a white supremacist forum. Atomwaffen is German for "atomic weapons," and the ADL says its members have been linked to several murders over the past few years.
At a press conference on Wednesday, US Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington said as part of Atomwaffen, the four defendants "vowed to accelerate the collapse of civilization using violence, mass murder, hate and threat."
The complaint alleges that the four conspired to identify the people they wanted to intimidate via an online encrypted group chat, focusing on Jewish people or journalists of color, after some Atomwaffen members faced negative press coverage. The complaint said it's not clear when the action began, but that it was ongoing by November 2019 at the latest.
At approximately that time, Shea allegedly posted in an online encrypted chat to inform members about the plan. "We will be postering journalists houses and media buildings to send a clear message that we too have leverage over them…" he wrote, according to the complaint. "The goal, of course, is to erode the media/states air of legitimacy by showing people that they have names and addresses, and hopefully embolden others to act as well."
Garza later wrote that the goal was to "have them all wake up one morning and find themselves terrorized by targeted propaganda," the complaint alleges. Cole also allegedly suggested leaving a doll with a knife in its head at each location.
Cole and Shea then allegedly created posters that included "a poster of a person in a skull mask holding a Molotov cocktail in front of a house, another depicting people in skull masks holding guns with the message 'These People Have Names and Addresses,' and another littered with swastikas with the message, 'We Know Where You Live,'" according to the complaint.
The posters all included a section for the target's personal information, including their home address, the complaint alleges.
Those posters were sent electronically to Shea, Garza, and Parker-Dipeppe, who mailed or delivered them to the group's targets, according to the complaint.
In Washington state, posters were mailed to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen and to two people associated with the Anti-Defamation League, according to the complaint. In Phoenix, a poster was allegedly sent to a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists.
The plan wasn't always successful: The group allegedly tried to deliver a poster to a journalist in Tampa, Florida, but had the wrong address.
"These defendants from across the country allegedly conspired on the internet to intimidate journalists and activists with whom they disagreed," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in the release. "This is not how America works. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this type of behavior."