The man accused of being the ex-leader of murderous neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division has been arrested in Texas for allegedly bombarding college, church and government leaders, journalists, and others by sending cops after them via so-called “swatting” attacks.
John Cameron Denton, 26, was arrested in Houston on Wednesday morning. He was outed by ProPublica (and the Anti-Defamation League before that) in 2018 as a the leader of the Neo-Nazi group who went by the codename “Rape.”
His arrest came as another four Atomwaffen members were arrested on Wednesday as part of a widespread federal crackdown on a group alleged to have been involved in everything from killings to poorly executed trolling. Cameron Brandon Shea, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, Johnny Roman Garza, and Atomwaffen’s alleged co-leader Kaleb Cole were charged in Washington state with conspiracy to threaten journalists and anti-racism activists by sending them racist posters.
“Denton was furious with ProPublica and the [reporter] because they published his true identity and discussed his role in Atomwaffen,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit filed in a Virginia federal court on Tuesday. “Denton was also angry because the [reporter] approached Denton at a music festival in Texas for a then upcoming news series.”
Denton was allegedly part of a ring of dark web neo-Nazis and hangers-on, including previously-arrested college student John William Kirby Kelley, who was said to harass people by calling in fake threats to 911. The idea was to bombard the targets with emergency responders—a potentially lethal practice known as swatting.
While Atomwaffen may have built an alarming reputation in the U.S. with their militaristic training camps and propensity for violence, Wednesday’s arrests suggested the group was just as likely to come undone with college-grade trolling efforts that even their supposed leader couldn’t resist.
Between November 2018 and April 2019, people tied to Denton allegedly made over a hundred calls, including some targeting a black church in Alexandria, a Cabinet official in Virginia, and Old Dominion University. Some calls were motivated by “a racial animus,” the affidavit says, while others seemed to be done purely for entertainment and bragging rights.
Denton also allegedly participated in the targeting of the New York newsroom of ProPublica and a reporter who helped out him as an Atomwaffen leader. A co-conspirator allegedly called 911 purporting to be the reporter, saying that he’d shot his wife, the affidavit says. Police stormed the reporter’s home, removing him and his wife separately, and leaving their young son in the home, according to the feds. In a December 2018 call to ProPublica’s offices, a caller told the dispatcher that he had pipe bombs, an AR-15, one hostage, and a dead body—and would begin shooting at police when they arrived. Police cleared the building’s 13th floor and found one visibly shaken employee, the affidavit notes.
Soon after, however, Denton unwittingly met with an undercover FBI agent and allegedly admitted to making the calls. He went so far as to say he wanted to be “raided” by authorities because it would benefit Atomwaffen Division, according to the feds.
Kelley, a 19-year-old former student at Old Dominion University, was previously charged in the conspiracy after he allegedly called in fake threats to his college.
The group, who organized calls in dark web chat rooms, used VoIP technology to mask the calls origins and kept a list of targets on the website DoxBin, prosecutors alleged. Chat logs have since been provided to investigators by group members who have agreed to testify against others.
In other calls, members of the alleged swatting ring were said to target a vape shop, call in a bomb threat to the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, and make a call claiming to be a Cabinet official who had shot his girlfriend and was holding her two children hostage.
The response to some calls included SWAT teams being brought in, temporary evacuation shelters set up, and schools locked down. In one alleged call to his college, Kelley said he was holding a Glock pistol and was about to shoot everyone in one of the college buildings, the feds said.
He was identified after he accidentally called using his listed phone number. “Carl fucked himself over,” one of the group members posted in the chat group afterwards, referring to Kelley.
Kelley, a former cybersecurity student said to have acted as tech support for the group, accidentally alerted authorities to the trolling efforts, The Daily Beast reported earlier this year when he was arrested.
A complaint filed in a Washington court on Tuesday, meanwhile, alleged that Cole was Atomwaffen’s co-leader, and that and he and three other members made threatening posters and mailed them to two members of the Anti-Defamation League and journalists who had written about the group. But they weren’t aware the FBI had them under surveillance in January as they donned disguises and purchased materials to make and send the posters.
The posters–with slogans like “YOUR ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES”—were included in the complaint along with the group’s encrypted messages.
“The matter of these nosy reporters coming into our daily lives, where we work, where we live, where we go in our spare time. We must simply approach them with nothing but pure aggression,” Cole allegedly said in a leadership video message posted to the group.
Cole and another alleged Atomwaffen member, Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh, were stopped by police last year as they drove through Texas wearing tactical gear and carrying several guns. Bruce-Umbaugh later pleaded guilty to firearms charges but Cole, who authorities say was made co-leader when the group’s previous leader was arrested, was let go at the time.
The Anti-Defamation League describes Atomwaffen Division as a small neo-Nazi group that promotes “accelerationism”—the belief that violence should be used to prompt a race war that white people will win. They have been linked to at least five killings in recent years, including the alleged murder of a gay, Jewish college student.
The ADL identified Denton as Atomwaffen’s leader in 2018. ProPublica then obtained leaked Discord chat logs that suggested Denton went by the codename “Rape” and directed the group’s recruitment, training, and propaganda efforts.
“Politics are useless. Revolution is necessary,” Denton is quoted as saying in one chat post, referring to Atomwaffen’s mission statement.