An active-duty U.S. Marine came under federal investigation for allegedly plotting with at least two others to assassinate minorities, drug users, and employees of the Democratic National Committee with explosives, rocket launchers, and automatic rifles.
That’s according to a newly unsealed FBI search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, which indicates USMC Private First Class Travis Owens and his partners in the unrealized murder plot were influenced by Timothy McVeigh, the former U.S. Army soldier behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead and injured nearly 700. The document also states that one of the suspects had links to the Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi group linked to at least five murders. A handful of active service members and veterans have been identified as being members of Atomwaffen, which calls for the armed overthrow of the U.S. government.
The investigation began in late August 2019, when a tipster contacted the FBI about disturbingly violent conversations they had observed in a private Facebook Messenger chat group named “Right Wing Death Squad.” According to the FBI, three men were behind the troubling chats: James Wisdom of Arkansas; mechanic Jason D’Juan Garfield—also of Arkansas—who went by the noms de guerre “Moon Man” and “Jugger Bugger;” and Owens, a Marine Corps E-1 from Arkansas stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
“Rhetoric in the private chat messages was consistent with racially motivated extremism ideology, to include aspirational violence against religious and racial minorities,” states the affidavit, which was signed by Special Agent Ryan Crump of the FBI Little Rock Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The only one of the three who has been charged to date is Garfield, who in May 2021 was sentenced to 78 months in prison for illegal gun possession. Charges against Wisdom and Owens have not been filed, a DOJ spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast, and neither has a lawyer listed in court records. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Jennen, the prosecutor handling the case, declined to comment.
Owens, however, was kicked out of the Marine Corps in April 2020, “after news of the NCIS/FBI investigation came to light,” USMC spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood told The Daily Beast.
“Participation in supremacist or extremist organizations or activities is a violation of Department of Defense and Marine Corps orders and will lead to mandatory processing for separation following the first substantiated incident,” Wood said in an email. “The Marine Corps is clear on its stance as it relates to racial hatred or extremism: There is no place for either in the Marine Corps. Our strength is derived from the individual excellence of every Marine regardless of background. Bigotry and racial extremism run contrary to our core values.”
During its inquiry, the FBI reviewed numerous exchanges between Garfield, Wisdom, and Owens. In one, Wisdom allegedly messaged Garfield, saying, “We can take care of druggies anytime. We need to get rid of Jews ASAP though.”
According to the warrant, Garfield replied: “Do both at the same time. Clean up the white community and show them who’s controlling and manipulating and our numbers go up… We don’t have the time to do one goal at a time.”
“I’m aware,” Wisdom allegedly responded. “Doesn’t mean we need to be too hasty though. We need at least a rudimentary plan and proper resources before we try anything big.”
The trio seemed to be preparing for a full-blown race war. Their goals were laid out in group chats underneath exhortations such as, “WISDOM: WE CAN ACCELERATE TODAY FOR A NEW WORLD TOMORROW,” and, “SP**CS AND NI***RS NEED TO HANG FROM TREES,” the warrant states. In one conversation, Garfield allegedly wrote, “Racism isn’t real, whites are the only humans.” In another, he discussed assassinating Arkansas state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, who is Black.
“Just fucking McVeigh the DNC,” Garfield, who boasted of his Atomwaffen connections, wrote in one message.
“You know what to buy,” replied Wisdom, who also discussed constructing “knockoff Panzerschreck [rocket] launchers” out of PVC pipe. “Call me up when you’ve got it and I’ll be more than happy to help.”
Getting those supplies, at least in part, would come from Owens, the men hoped.
“I want a full auto Scar H.,” Garfield wrote to Owens in one chat, according to the FBI, referring to a fully automatic assault rifle used by Special Operations forces. “Travis, hook me up with some goodies from the armory. I’ll pay you $100 worth of McChickens.”
“Lol I can’t do that with how the security is now in the military,” Owens allegedly replied. “[It’s] ridiculous to get your issued M16A4 service rifle.”
However, Owens told the others that he could obtain enough C-4 explosives from other service members to do the job.
“I have access to 300k lbs of anhydrous ammonia,” Garfield allegedly wrote in an Aug. 16, 2019, message. “Just need a container to store it.”
“Nice,” wrote Owens, the warrant states. “I have combat engineers as friends with access to c4.”
“BOMBS AWAY MR. MCVEIGH,” Garfield allegedly wrote back.
“Yes kill them all,” Owens allegedly replied. “I have access to so much hahaha we can make it rain bullets for days.”
Garfield pushed the others hard, seeming to get impatient at one point.
“I’m really tempted to act soon,” Garfield wrote. “I can’t stand by and do nothing.”
In October 2019, Garfield sent the group photographs of a handgun decorated with hand-drawn dates, symbols, and markings that gave winking nods to neo-Nazism, and a reference to “Saint Tarrant,” which the FBI affidavit states was a shoutout to New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant.
Also among them were references to the Iron Guard, a Romanian fascist group; coded anti-Black messages; an acronym associated with the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian National Guard Unit with neo-Nazi ties; and “42089,” which the FBI affidavit described as “a reference to Adolf Hitler’s birthday, April 20, 1889.”
Jonathan Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said the men seemed to be “accelerationists.” The notion of speeding up the creation of a white ethnostate drives certain extremists of a certain stripe, who use it to justify violence.
“Within the doctrine of accelerationism, we see a clear trend not just in violence for the sake of violence, or violence in the name of collapse, but actions that can be linked to the deification of individuals held up as 'martyrs'—from Anders Breivik and Patrick Crusius to Brenton Tarrant,” Lewis told The Daily Beast. “The iconography on the firearm within the search warrant, for example, highlights both established accelerationist and white supremacist motifs, as well as shows direct inspirational linkages to the symbols and icons on the weapon used by Brenton Tarrant in the Christchurch massacre.”
In short, the investigation provides “a grim reminder” that violent extremism often begets violent extremism.
“The references to Attomwaffen and Timothy McVeigh suggest that the individuals involved looked to the acts of violence and terrorism inflicted by other ideologically-driven killers as an aspirational goal,” Jared Holt, an extremism researcher at the Atlantic Council, told The Daily Beast. “Though extremism can morph and change its form, the underlying motives and philosophies driving these movements are a constant.”