A former leader of the white supremacist group Atomwaffen Division, John Cameron Denton, 26, was arrested for taking part in “swatting” calls, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic where the harasser calls 911 to report that a third party is in serious and imminent danger, for example, a bomb threat, murder or hostage taking. A SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team is then sent to the unwitting third party’s address.
Besides the enormous cost of sending these teams, swatting has resulted in accidental deaths.
Denton, who went by the codename “Rape,” was arrested in his hometown of Montgomery, Texas. The swatting took place in Virginia.
According to court documents, Denton and several co-conspirators, including John William Kirby Kelley, allegedly conducted swatting calls against:
- a Cabinet official living in Virginia
- Old Dominion University
- the New York City office of ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom known for investigative journalism
- an investigative journalist who produced materials for ProPublica
Denton reportedly chose the ProPublica targets because he was furious with the news outlet for publishing his true identity and discussing his role in Atomwaffen Division.
During the investigation, Denton unknowingly met with an undercover agent and confessed his role in the swatting incidents. Denton told the agent how he used a voice changer when he made the swatting calls and said it would be good if he was “raided” for the swatting since, because it was a serious crime, it could benefit Atomwaffen Division.
The Justice Department also announced the arrest of four racially motivated violent extremists from across the U.S. who were connected to the Atomwaffen Division. All four were charged with conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists.
The four were named as 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.
According to the criminal complaint, the defendants conspired via an encrypted online chat group to identify journalists and others they wanted to intimidate.
The group focused primarily on those who were Jewish or journalists. Cole and Shea allegedly created the posters, which included Nazi symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening language.
The posters were delivered to Atomwaffen members electronically, and the co-conspirators printed and delivered or mailed the posters to journalists or activists the group was targeting.
In the Seattle area, the posters were mailed to a TV journalist who had reported on Atomwaffen and to two people associated with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
In Tampa, the group targeted a journalist (but delivered the poster to the wrong address). In Phoenix, the poster was delivered to a magazine journalist.
“These defendants sought to spread fear and terror with threats delivered to the doorstep of those who are critical of their activities,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran for the western district of Washington state. “… Rooting out anti-Semitic hate and threats of violence and vigorously prosecuting those responsible are top priorities for the Department of Justice.”
“The FBI recognizes all citizens’ First Amendment-protected rights. However the subjects arrested today crossed the line from protected ideas and speech to action in order to intimidate and coerce individuals who they perceived as a threat to their ideology of hate,” said Raymond Duda, special agent in charge from the FBI in Seattle.