In the past week, police across the country have investigated or arrested at least six men, most of whom are young and white, for making terroristic threats, stockpiling weapons, or plotting attacks.
The string of arrests came as America reeled in the aftermath of three mass shootings that left a combined total of 34 dead.
The FBI is investigating two of those shootings — one at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, and another at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas — as domestic terrorism. And police are still looking for a motive for the third, which took place outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio. All three of the suspected shooters were white men between 19 and 24.
While copycat threats often follow mass shootings in the U.S., experts have noted that some of the last week’s arrestees have demonstrated a high level of preparedness and ideological motivation. Several allegedly subscribed to far-right beliefs, and two allegedly made threats against Walmart. Eight Walmart locations in total have received threats in the last week.
Brian Levin, who leads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said it’s not unusual for crimes to “manifest in clusters around publicity.” However, Levin said, there’s another element to what we’re currently seeing in response to the shootings.
“What makes these different is that many of these offenders consider themselves as part of an allied chain of so-called ‘lone’ warriors who combine their violence with a memorialization on social media, with references to past terrorists and bigoted folkloric texts.”
Experts also say that the string of arrests serves as a reminder of the increasing pervasiveness of far-right terror in America.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of focus on the attacks that occur when there are bodies in the street,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “But what these arrests serve as a reminder of is that the threat is broader than any one attack. It’s an ongoing, consistent threat, and this underscores the role of law enforcement in tracking it.”
At a recent hearing, FBI director Christopher Wray said that they’d arrested 100 subjects of domestic terror investigations over a 10-month period, a significant number of whom adhered to white supremacist ideology.
Last week’s arrests offer a glimpse into a world of violent threats and plots that consume law enforcement on a regular basis:
Thursday, August 8
Dmitriy Andreychenko, 20, caused panic at a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, when he walked into the store wearing body armor with a loaded AR-style rifle strapped across his chest, and a semiautomatic handgun in a holster.
Police said that he was carrying more than 100 rounds of ammunition, and that he claimed that he was simply carrying out a “social experiment” to test Walmart’s loyalty to the Second Amendment. Andreychenko was confronted by a former firefighter, and later arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat.
On Thursday, the FBI also arrested Conor Climo, 23, from Nevada, who the bureau says was plotting an attack targeting Jews or the LGBTQ community. Federal authorities said that they got a tip in April saying that Climo was in communication with members of a splinter organization associated with neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, which encourages lonewolf terror attacks. Climo had allegedly conducted surveillance on a Las Vegas synagogue, had sketched a building plan for an LGBTQ bar, and eyed the ADL offices as a potential target. He’s been charged with possession of an unregistered firearm.
Friday, August 9
Richard Clayton, 26, was arrested near Orlando, Florida after he allegedly left a comment on Facebook warning shoppers to avoid Walmart.
“Three more days of probation left then I get my AR-15 back” he wrote on Facebook, police said. “Clayton appears to believe in the white supremacist ideology,” according to law enforcement, “and has a history of posting threats on Facebook using fictitious accounts.”
Saturday, August 10
Daniel Waters, 22, from a Chicago suburb, was arrested and charged with one count of unlawful possession of explosive materials. Police in Lombard, Illinois, executed a search warrant after getting a tip that he was stockpiling weapons and explosives. Authorities found a screed about starting a militia that they believed belonged to Waters.
Jeffrey Hanson, 53, from Orange, Connecticut, was also arrested Saturday arrested for allegedly making a comment on Facebook saying that a planned Puerto Rico festival nearby was an example for why we need “30-round magazines”
On the same day, Jose Luis Gonzales Jr., 21, from Harlingen, Texas, was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat, a third degree felony, after police said he threatened via social media to shoot up his local Walmart.
And authorities in Kansas City, Missouri said they were investigating social media posts by someone claiming to have two AR-15 semi-automatic weapons and 22 pipe bombs, which they wanted to use on Walmarts in the area. The poster threatened to carry out “the biggest mass shooting in American history.” Local police and the Department of Homeland Security were investigating the threats, which law enforcement say were made “on Reddit and elsewhere online.”
And amid growing public scrutiny around the threat of far-right extremists and how they’re treated under the law, one arrest from June was thrust back into the national spotlight last week. Ross Farca, 23, was arrested months ago in Concord, California, for threatening to emulate the Poway synagogue shooter, who left three dead in April.
Farca wrote on Steam, a video game platform, that he planned to wear a Nazi uniform during an attack and aim for a “body count of at least 30,” echoing language used by 8chan users. After searching his home, police located a home-made assault rifle, 13 empty magazines, a three-foot sword, tactical clothing, pistol ammunition, and Nazi literature.
But days after he was arrested, Farca was out on bail. Now, in the wake of three mass shootings, the local Jewish community in Concord is feeling especially uneasy knowing that Farca is out of custody.
Cover: A makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)