The chief executive officer of the artificial-intelligence company Banjo, which has been building a mass-surveillance system under a state contract in Utah, helped a Ku Klux Klan leader in the shooting of a synagogue as a teen, according to newly released court documents. Damien Patton, 47, served in the U.S. Navy and worked as a NASCAR mechanic before he co-founded Banjo, which has raised almost $223 million from venture-capital firms, including $100 million from Softbank, according to OneZero, a Medium publication.
Patton—who has been featured in The New York Times, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal—has admitted to participating in white-supremacist groups as a teenager and also directly helped the Dixie Knights, of the KKK, shoot up a synagogue near Nashville in 1990, according to OneZero. No one was killed in the shooting, but Patton pleaded guilty to charges of juvenile delinquency, according to the documents.
Patton also confessed that he was once a skinhead who attended white-supremacist meetings, OneZero reported. “We believe that the blacks and the Jews are taking over America, and it’s our job to take America back for the white race,” Patton said at a trial for the shooting. Banjo has been leading the effort in Utah to create a surveillance system after the state granted it access to traffic cameras, street cameras, and 911 emergency systems. The goal, according to Banjo, is to help police track down criminal activity “in seconds.”
Following the news of Patton’s prior involvement with the white supremacist group, Utah’s attorney general suspended the use of the company’s surveillance system. Attorney General Sean Reyes’ spokesman Richard Piatt said the office is “shocked and dismayed at reports that Banjo’s founder had any affiliation with any hate group or groups in his youth.”