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December 3, 2015

Bonnie and Clydes Rare—But Not Unheard Of—In Violent Extremism

Syed Farook

Syed Farook

Background information on Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married perpetrators of the tragic mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, is still sparse, as is clarity concerning the motive behind the vicious attack that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.

However, according to media reports from the in-progress investigation, there is growing concern among law enforcement officials that the shootings may have had a connection to Islamic extremism or that there might have been a mixed extremist/workplace motive behind them.  The FBI has said that it is now treating its investigation of the killings as a counter-terrorism investigation.

One thing that is exceedingly rare in traditional workplace shootings is for there to be multiple perpetrators, as there was in this case.  As one law enforcement official told The New York Times, “You don’t take your wife to a workplace shooting, and especially not as prepared as they were.  He could have been radicalized, ready to go with some type of attack, and then had a dispute at work and decided to do something.”

Multiple perpetrators are certainly common in extremist-related crimes, of course, despite the existence of the “lone wolf” phenomenon.  Women are also frequently involved in extremist-related criminal activity in almost every extremist movement in the United States.

However, when one examines recent criminal cases in the U.S. involving domestic Islamic extremists, one finds that female partners of male perpetrators—even when themselves involved in criminal activities—have not typically engaged in violence.  Overseas, women have sometimes taken on more violent roles, including as suicide bombers.

If an Islamic extremist motive is confirmed in the San Bernardino shootings, the fact of husband-and-wife shooters would be a new wrinkle in the history of the violent tactics of that movement in the United States.

Extremist-related violence involving husbands and wives—or non-married partners—is actually not unheard of in the United States, but it tends to come from a very different source:  right-wing extremism.  Though not what one could call a common phenomenon, such violent “Bonnie and Clyde” couples do emerge with regularity from within both the white supremacist and anti-government extremist movements in the United States.

In fact, right-wing extremism even produced an example of the exceedingly rare phenomenon of a married couple both of whom were on death row:  anti-government extremists Linda Lyon Block and George Sibley.  In 1993, the two sovereign citizens non-fatally stabbed Block’s ex-husband, then while on the run murdered an Alabama police officer in a shootout.  Both were executed in the 2000s.

In more recent years, extremist couples have been involved with everything from standoffs with police to hate crimes to terrorist conspiracies.  But some of the most shocking “Bonnie and Clyde” incidents have involved multiple homicides committed by white supremacists and anti-government extremists:

  • Jerad and Amanda Miller, a young married couple who adhered to the anti-government ideology of the militia movement, targeted two Las Vegas police officers for assassination in June 2014, killing them at a pizza restaurant as they ate their Sunday lunch.  The couple crossed the street to a Wal-mart in anticipation of a final shootout with first responders, where Amanda killed an armed civilian trying to stop them.  As they had intended, they did both die during a shootout with law enforcement at the store, with a wounded Amanda killing herself after Jerad was shot.
  • Jeremy and Christine Moody, white supremacists from Union County, South Carolina, killed a nearby married couple in July 2013 in a particularly grisly double homicide in which both victims were shot and stabbed.  The Moodys had targeted the victim because they wanted to kill a registered sex offender and found the male victim’s name and address on the Internet.  They killed his wife because she had married a sex offender.  Both pleaded guilty to murder in 2014, receiving life sentences with no parole, but were unrepentant, with Christine Moody calling the day of the murders “the best day of my life.”
  • Holly Grigsby and David Pedersen, a white supremacist couple from Oregon, embarked upon a multi-state murder spree in 2011 that totaled four killed before police could find and stop them.  The pair traveled to Washington to murder Pederson’s father and stepmother, each killing one victim, then killed a young man in Oregon to steal his car and because they thought he might be Jewish.  They killed an African-American man in northern California in another carjacking attempt, though they did not end up taking the vehicle, then were finally apprehended by the California Highway Patrol.  Grigsby told the arresting officers that they were to Sacramento to “kill more Jews” when they were stopped.  Both pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes and received life sentences.

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November 10, 2015

Virginia White Supremacists Arrested; Plot Against Jews Alleged

Ronald Chaney from Facebook

Ronald Chaney (Facebook)

FBI agents have arrested three eastern Virginia men on weapons and robbery conspiracy charges in connection with an alleged terrorist plot to attack Jewish and African-American religious institutions and conduct “acts of violence against persons of the Jewish faith.”

The three men, Robert Curtis Doyle and Ronald Beasley Chaney III, charged with conspiracy to possess firearms despite felony convictions, and Charles Daniel Halderman, charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, are white supremacists with past criminal records. They all are from the greater Richmond area.

According to criminal complaints, a meeting took place at Doyle’s house in September “to discuss…shooting or bombing the occupants of black churches and Jewish synagogues.” Doyle allegedly discussed criminal acts they could employ for getting money with which to carry out their plans, including robbing and killing a jewelry dealer, committing an armored car robbery, and attacking a gun store owner. The proceeds would allegedly be used to buy land and weapons and to train “for the coming race war.”

The following month, Doyle and Chaney allegedly met with an undercover FBI agent to purchase weapons and explosives from the agent. FBI agents arrested the three at their homes on November 8.

All three suspects have lengthy criminal histories, including crimes of violence. Chaney, for example, pleaded guilty in 2006 to a number of charges related to an attempted robbery and subsequent shootout with the intended victims. He was released from his most recent prison stay in the spring of 2015.

The men may have met in prison, where all were designated by prison officials as white supremacists while in custody. According to the FBI, the suspects were adherents of a white supremacist variety of Asatruism. Asatru is the most common name given to the modern revival of ancient Norse paganism. Most Asatruists are not white supremacists, but a minority are, often referring to themselves by terms such as Odinists or Wotanists.

Halderman and Doyle both have Asatru tattoos, as well as white supremacist tattoos, while Chaney identifies himself as Asatruist on his Facebook profile.

White supremacists have been involved in many of the right-wing terrorist conspiracies and acts in recent decades.   Many white supremacist terrorist plots and acts involve attacks against Jewish targets, as most white supremacists view Jews as their “ultimate enemy.”

 

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September 1, 2015

Deadly Violence, Plots Mark Right-Wing Extremist Courtroom Dramas

Judges and juries in Kansas, California and Georgia have ruled in a trio of important criminal cases involving white supremacists, anti-government sovereign citizens, and militia groups who engaged in violence or conspiracies.

Brent Douglas Cole

Brent Douglas Cole

On Monday, August 31, a jury in Olathe, Kansas, convicted long-time white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller (also known as Frazier Glenn Cross) on capital murder, attempted murder, assault and weapons charges for his 2014 shooting attack that killed three at Jewish institutions in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park.

Miller, who defended himself, attempted to argue during his trial that he was justified in killing Jews, because they were committing “genocide” against white people. After the jury read its verdict, Miller shouted “Sieg Heil,” while giving a Nazi salute.

In federal court in Sacramento, California, meanwhile, another extremist learned of his fate. Brent Douglas Cole, an adherent of the sovereign citizen movement, received a 29-year, seven-month sentence for his role in a shootout in 2014. Sovereign citizens believe that the government is illegitimate, because a conspiracy long ago subverted the original government and replaced it with a tyrannical one, and that it has no authority over them.

In June 214, a Bureau of Land Management ranger discovered Cole had set up a campsite on public land and had a motorcycle at the campsite that had been reported stolen. When the ranger and a California Highway Patrol officer attempted to impound that motorcycle, as well as one with expired tags, Cole confronted the officers. When one attempted to place handcuffs on Cole, the sovereign citizen opened fire on the officers, injuring both of them, before subsequently giving himself up. He was convicted in February 2015 of assault on a federal officer which inflicted bodily injury and other charges.

Finally, a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, sentenced three members of a militia group to prison after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. Brian Cannon, Terry Peace and Cory Williamson were members of a north Georgia militia cell that plotted terrorist attacks against the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government targets, hoping that the government would over-react and, in turn, cause militia groups around the country to rise up in arms.

After an associate of the three men alerted the FBI to the plotters’ intentions, the FBI set up a sting operation. After Peace told the informant that he needed thermite charges and pipe bombs, the informant offered to get the explosives for him. In February 2014, FBI agents arrested the trio of militiamen as the received the (inert) explosive devices from the informant. Their would-be revolution was thwarted.

In many respects, these three incidents collectively highlight the major dangers coming from the extreme right in the 21st Century. Miller engaged in a deadly attack directed against Jews, a perceived “racial enemy.” The shooting spree presaged the even more deadly attack against African-Americans by Dylann Storm Roof in June 2015. Cole engaged in unplanned, spontaneous violence against law enforcement officers—one of the major threats posed by the sovereign citizen movement. And the militiamen in North Georgia engaged in a conspiracy to attack government targets; just the latest in a long series of such plots and conspiracies stemming from the militia movement.

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