On June 2, Cole Carini of Richlands, Virginia, showed up at the Clinch Valley Medical Center with a missing hand. Several fingers on Carini’s other hand were also gone, and he had shrapnel wounds to the neck and throat. A local sheriff’s deputy arrived to interview Carini, who claimed his gruesome injuries were the result of a gardening accident.
But something didn’t add up. Police, who knew Carini, 23, had previously been convicted on explosives charges, got a search warrant for his home and called in the FBI.
When investigators got to the residence, they found a trail of blood leading from a red minivan parked in the driveway to the front door of the house, and up the stairs to a second-floor bedroom, according to the affidavit. After stepping over a “flesh colored substance that...looked like a piece of human skin,” cops found a plastic bottle filled with triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, a “substance used in the creation of improvised explosive devices,” inside a footlocker.
Beside the footlocker was a box filled with rusty nails, and a plastic container, the top of which had been “peeled back in a manner consistent with an explosion,” the affidavit says. The blinds in the room were damaged, and a chunk of flesh was stuck to the ceiling.
Down the street, agents discovered more evidence by a shed behind Carini’s grandmother’s house: PVC pipes, pieces of loose wires, empty chemical containers, and a pit that appeared to have been the site of an explosion. Inside the shed, they turned up a hot plate, coffee cups with white, crystal-like residue inside them, a battery with wires attached to it, and a crumpled, partially legible letter lying on the ground.
“He casually walked through the shopping mall, his jacket concealed deadly objects,” the letter read, parts of which were illegible. “He was doing it and was assured it must be done. Even if he died this statement was worth it! He had... of tension that would come and go as he approached the stage of hot cheerleaders... A dead seriousness sank in as he realized he was truly passing the point of no return! He decided I will not back down I will not be afraid of the consequences no matter what I will be heroic I will make a statement like Elliott Rodgers [sic] did he thought to himself.”
Rodger, the affidavit explains, was an “involuntary celibate” who killed six people and injured 14 in 2014, before taking his own life. Rodger left behind a manifesto that said, in part, “If I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you,” and has since emerged as a hero of sorts to the young disaffected men known as “incels.” The so-called “incel movement” is made up of young men who hate women for rejecting them sexually, and have been linked to at least 53 deaths in recent years. In 2018, a Toronto incel carried out an attack in Rodger’s name. In April, a California incel who called Rodger “a victim” was charged with making violent threats against numerous teenage girls. And last month, an Arizona incel shot three people at a local shopping center as part of a plan to reportedly make couples “feel the pain he feels on a daily basis." Many legal scholars say incel-related violence should be considered domestic terrorism.
Reached by phone, Carini’s mother, Karen, was at first surprised her son’s case was “getting national attention,” then said she hoped he would recover. Of his writings about bombing a mall, she said, “There’s not even a mall where we live.”
“It’s a situation where my son needs help, and I hope he gets the help he needs,” she told The Daily Beast. “Not to sound cliche, but I had no idea [about the bomb-making materials]. And I’m willing to work with him. My son needs help. That’s all I want to say.”
When agents followed up with Carini at the hospital, he insisted his hand and fingers were lopped off when his lawnmower flipped over. The “blades were spinning so fast, it acted like a bomb,” Carini claimed.
However, explains the affidavit, “An officer who responded to the scene... reported that there did not appear to be any area of the grass mowed, and that the grass at the property was around six inches high.”
Carini is now charged with making false statements to the FBI. He is currently in federal custody, pending a detention hearing, and does not yet have a lawyer listed in court records.