An alleged member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division who made a video about hunting for minorities was taken into custody on child-pornography charges after federal agents became worried he was “mobilizing to violence.”
Benjamin Bogard wears a skull mask and holds a shotgun in front of a white van in the video reviewed by The Daily Beast. He advocates going across the country looking for minorities, Mexicans, women—“anything that is shit,” he says.
“Pull out your shotgun, get to the side of the road, pump that shit open, point it at them and pull that trigger,” he says in the video, which ends with a Nazi salute.
Bogard, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas, captured the attention of law enforcement with his Instagram, where he allegedly made violent threats and indicated membership in Atomwaffen.
His lawyer claims it’s all a misunderstanding—that he was just being an “edgelord,” someone who revels in shock value. But authorities have said they feared Bogard was ready to act on his threats.
In a Tuesday court appearance, a judge declined to release Bogard before a March 6 hearing. The decision suggests the court considers Bogard an active threat; previously, another judge had agreed to release Bogard into his parents’ custody, on the condition that he be electronically monitored and cut off from the internet.
Bogard’s case didn’t start as a child-pornography bust. The FBI received a tip about him in early November, after someone called a police hotline to report his social-media posts “involving domestic terroristic threats that included threats of mass violence,” according to a criminal complaint. Bogard indicated an allegiance to Atomwaffen, the tipster said.
When FBI agents interviewed Bogard at his home about the posts, he agreed to turn over his cellphone. A search revealed underage porn in photographic and video form, according to the complaint.
Atomwaffen members have previously been implicated in sexual offenses. The leader of the group’s U.K. arm, Sonnenkrieg Division, has been questioned by police over alleged sex offenses with a teenage girl, the BBC reports. John Cameron Denton, a Texas man who at one time led the group, went by the username “Rape” in internal chats. At least one of the group’s favorite texts, which was at one point listed as required reading for Atomwaffen members, describes graphic abuse of children.
Bogard has been indicted only on the pornography charge, but the FBI detailed his alleged interest in white supremacy and violence during a court hearing last week.
Agents testified that Bogard’s internet search history included phrases like “buildings to bomb,” and instructions for building guns, according to the San Antonio Express-News. He also allegedly searched for and saved images of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who shot and killed nine worshippers at an African-American church in 2015. Some neo-Nazis have taken to worshipping Roof and threatening massacres in his name.
At the hearing, an FBI agent testified that they’d linked Bogard to a Twitter user who said his favorite part of a gun was “the part that kills 30 babies per trigger pull.” The only Twitter user to make the comment also describes himself as a “future mass shooter” in his biography.
Bogard admitted to running the accounts, but “explained this was all an online persona and he had no intent to do mass violence,” an FBI agent testified. Bogard’s lawyer also claimed the posts were part of an “edgelord” persona, pointing to his apparently contradictory praise for Hitler and Allah. But those overtures aren’t unusual for Atomwaffen and its fringe of the neo-Nazi movement. Atomwaffen members have previously praised Islamic extremists (sometimes ironically), with one former member converting to “Salafist National Socialism” before allegedly murdering two fellow Atomwaffen members.
FBI agent Russell Doran testified that they decided to arrest Bogard on the pornography charge because it appeared he was “mobilizing to violence,” the Express-News reported.