Teen "swatting" suspect accused of neo-Nazi ties will remain in jail, for now

Alexandria, Virginia — The 19-year-old accused of calling in fake bomb threats and active shooter reports around the country will remain in jail pending further proceedings in his criminal case. John William Kirby Kelley is also accused of being part of a group sympathetic to neo-Nazi ideology.

Kelley is alleged to have committed a conspiracy after he and co-conspirators "swatted" numerous locations and police departments and allegedly targeted African Americans and Jews. "Swatting" is a practice in which fake emergencies are called into authorities to draw a large law enforcement response. 

Kelley wore a green prison jumpsuit and glasses when he appeared in court. Candace Mertz, his public defender, did not call for his release but mentioned Kelley's team may petition the court for that at a later date. Mertz would not comment after the hearing.

U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger, who is prosecuting the case, said the FBI believes the group Kelley belonged to "is related to white supremacy."

In November of 2018, court documents say a member of the group called police to say he had placed "three pipe bombs" at an African American church in Alexandria, Virginia, and would "kill everyone at the church." The church was evacuated. Kelly's group is charged with making 134 fake calls to law enforcement in total. 

From celebrity homes in Los Angeles to an airport in Florida, swatting is a serious problem. In one case, a man in California was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making "swatting" calls across the U.S. One call led to police shooting and killing a Kansas man. 

"You have individuals showing up in a fast-paced manner, thinking they're showing up at the next potential mass shooter event. Imagine the chaos, cost and diversion of resources that that causes," Terwilliger said.