Transcript

American Insurrection

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Tonight's program contains mature content which may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

A.C. THOMPSON, ProPublica/FRONTLINE:

Jan. 7, 2021. Washington’s streets are quiet. Tense. Soldiers stand watch around the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol.

Inside, the halls are deserted. New members of Congress should be settling into their offices. But instead, furniture is stacked in doorways.

A.C. THOMPSON:

It’s hard to believe that just yesterday these halls were flooded with pro-Trump rioters, and that today, four people are dead.

A.C. THOMPSON:

This is how the Trump presidency ends. It’s shocking. Yet there had also been warning signs.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I wonder, what form will these violent energies take now? To find an answer, I feel like I have to go back to the beginning.

A.C. THOMPSON:

If the Trump presidency ended with an insurrection at the Capitol, for me, it began here, in Charlottesville, Virginia, waiting on a darkened campus for the torches to arrive.

CROWD [chanting]:

You will not replace us! You will not replace us! You will not replace us!

A.C. THOMPSON:

I’d been reporting on the rise in hate crimes and America’s resurgent white supremacist movement, and that led me here.

CROWD [chanting]:

You will not replace us!

A.C. THOMPSON:

The rally was called “Unite the Right.” White supremacists out in the open, unafraid and, soon, violent.

The next morning, I followed a group of clergy to the rally. The white supremacists were returning, and counterprotesters were arriving to challenge them.

COUNTERPROTESTERS [chanting]:

No hate, no fear. White supremacists not welcome here!

A.C. THOMPSON:

The white supremacists came prepared to fight, bringing guns and knives and bats and shields. They attacked people who tried to block their path, leaving them bloodied on the pavement.

The violence kept escalating while the police looked on.

Just want to let you know there’s been all kinds of crazy violence over here. Pepper spray, people beating each other with sticks. We’re trying to figure out if the police are going to intervene to stop that or if it’s just going to keep going on.

MALE VIRGINIA STATE TROOPER:

Well, we’ve all got different assignments to try to maintain some sort of order here. So that’s what we’re focusing on right now.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Alongside the neo-Nazis and white nationalists were militias and members of a group we would all come to know, the Proud Boys. Its current leader was there that day.

I had never seen white supremacists gather in such large numbers. But looking back now, Charlottesville feels almost like a prelude of what was to come. Anger. Hatred. Bloodshed.

A neo-Nazi, James Alex Fields, slammed his car into the crowd, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

SUSAN BRO, Heather Heyer's mother:

I always wondered, was she afraid? Did she see him coming?

Dear God, I would love to have my daughter back.

A.C. THOMPSON:

For you, what does justice for Heather look like?

SUSAN BRO:

I don’t know. Nothing's going to bring Heather back. Those of us who miss her, miss her forever.

A.C. THOMPSON:

James Alex Fields is the person who's been prosecuted for Heather's murder. In your mind, is he the only person who should be held accountable?

SUSAN BRO:

No. For people from 35 states to come in to fight, that's absolutely absurd.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

A.C. THOMPSON:

At the time, Trump had only been president for seven months, but his response set the tone for the next three years. And many on the far right took his words as a sign of support.

DONALD TRUMP:

Wait a minute, I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.

I watched those very closely—much more closely than you people watched it. And you have—you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.

A.C. THOMPSON:

James Fields was eventually sentenced to life in prison. But in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville, only a handful of others were arrested. I kept asking law enforcement what was going on.

I got your message saying that basically we should look at the Facebook and Twitter posts you put out, but we have questions that go beyond that.

Had everyone else just blended back into society?

Like I said, I’m just trying to figure out how many folks have been prosecuted and how many cases might still be in the pipeline.

So we began trying to locate the people ourselves.

LUCAS WALDRON, ProPublica:

There were a couple guys in these few shots that we weren’t able to identify. I wonder who he is. Because he looks like he’s part of RAM. He's definitely dressed—

A.C. THOMPSON:

Oh, yeah, he’s definitely in RAM.

Over the next year, we tracked down some of the most violent individuals in Charlottesville.

Look, he’s got his right hand taped up.

LUCAS WALDRON:

Yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And then definitely the guy in Charlottesville has at least one hand taped up. Right hand.

LUCAS WALDRON:

Right hand.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I wonder if his left hand is as well.

My colleagues and I matched our footage with images from far-right rallies across the country. We gained access to encrypted chat logs and developed sources inside extremist networks.

Our reporting led us to groups that had been in Charlottesville, including the Rise Above Movement, or RAM, a white power fight club. They had also been linked to multiple attacks in California.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Hey, Mike, how're you doing? A.C. Thompson, ProPublica and FRONTLINE. I wanted to talk to you about what you were doing in Charlottesville last year.

MICHAEL MISELIS:

Sorry, I don't know anything about that, man.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But you were there. You were on camera. You're on photos.

MICHAEL MISELIS:

No, I think you got the wrong guy.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Hey, do Northrop and UCLA know you’re involved with the Rise Above Movement?

MICHAEL MISELIS:

I gotta go, man.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Michael Miselis was a RAM member we’d seen punching a protester in the face in Charlottesville. But Miselis was more than just a street fighter—he had a government security clearance and worked for the defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

As we looked further, we found other white supremacists and neo-Nazis with ties to the military, some of them on active duty. It was a problem that would continue to grow in the coming years, despite calls to root it out.

REP. KEITH ELLISON, (D) Minnesota, 2007-19:

The president has to be very clear about the unacceptability of any extremists, including these white supremacist extremists, acquiring the best military training in the world.

NARRATOR:

Keith Ellison, then a congressman from Minnesota, had seen our reporting and wrote to the Pentagon demanding it take action.

KEITH ELLISON:

Since we wrote that letter, we have been in verbal contact with the military that they're responding to our letter. We expect to have it soon, but we have not yet seen it.

A.C. THOMPSON:

We've identified seven members of one neo-Nazi group who are current or former military. What do you make of that?

KEITH ELLISON:

Well, I think that they have decided this is a strategic initiative for them. They want their people to go into the military. There’s a real legitimate fear here, and I think that we’ve got to be vigilant about it.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The DOD eventually told Ellison it had investigated the people we’d ID’d and had fired or disciplined 18 service members.

KEITH ELLISON:

I think one thing we can do is to shine a light on this, because when we get some light on it, then somebody somewhere is going to say, "OK, this needs to become a priority." And so that's what we're going to do.

A.C. THOMPSON:

A year after Charlottesville, the spotlight was on.

THOMAS CULLEN, U.S. attorney:

We are here today to announce the arrest of four members of the militant white supremacist group known as the Rise Above Movement.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The FBI arrested more people who’d been at Unite the Right, including Michael Miselis, who lost his job at Northrop Grumman and spent about a year in prison.

It felt like our reporting had helped to expose some of the most dangerous figures in the white supremacist scene. I began receiving death threats, even as the groups splintered, changed their names and were hit with lawsuits.

But one group did continue to take to the streets, participating in rallies in Portland, Oregon: the Proud Boys.

CROWD [chanting]:

USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

A.C. THOMPSON:

They had Black and Latino members and wanted to distance themselves from the white supremacist movement. They seemed mostly interested in drinking, fighting and supporting Trump.

CROWD [chanting]:

USA! USA!

A.C. THOMPSON:

So what’s your deal, man? Why are you here?

PROUD BOY:

I’m here to stand up for freedom.

A.C. THOMPSON:

They faced off against members of antifa.

PROUD BOY:

They’ve got one ideology over there, and these guys have a freedom-loving ideology.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What do you think the ideology is over there?

PROUD BOY:

It’s communism. They’re all about communism.

A.C. THOMPSON:

They claimed they were defending the U.S. from some sort of communist takeover and they wore shirts celebrating Pinochet, the Chilean fascist dictator.

Tell me about your T-shirt? What are you saying here?

PROUD BOY:

It says what it says.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What do you mean by that? You're down for fascism. Is that what you're saying?

Some wore patches that said RWDS—right-wing death squad.

Fights broke out sporadically. But that march in Portland would be the last I’d see of the Proud Boys for a while. I was drawn away to other stories.

POLICE RADIO:

We’re under fire. We're under fire. He’s got an automatic weapon, he’s firing out of the front of the synagogue.

A.C. THOMPSON:

There was the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018 that left 11 Jewish worshippers dead.

POLICE RADIO:

34-10. Please send the medics up here!

POLICE RADIO:

7-1, suspect's talking about "all these Jews need to die."

A.C. THOMPSON:

And in August 2019, a gunman who'd ranted about a Hispanic invasion opened fire in an El Paso Walmart, killing 23 people. Horrific hate crimes, carried out not by extremist groups, but by individuals.

But then, in January 2020, something different caught my eye: a rally in Richmond, Virginia.

CROWD [chanting]:

We will not comply!

A.C. THOMPSON:

22,000 people turned out to protest the state’s new gun laws. Many of them were mainstream conservatives, but among the crowd were also militia members, white supremacists and Proud Boys. I wondered if the energies from Charlottesville were gathering again.

The rally had been organized on Facebook, and I found someone who monitors right-wing groups on social media.

MEGAN SQUIRE, Elon University:

I'm a computer scientist. My background's in data mining and data science. So that means using facts and figures, names, dates, photos, dollar amounts, just all that good stuff. And then we look for patterns in that data.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Megan Squire tracked the decline of far-right groups after Charlottesville.

MEGAN SQUIRE:

Charlottesville was incredibly disruptive to these groups. It started everything from infighting amongst themselves, all the arrests that happened afterwards, and then the lawsuits were just absolutely devastating for these groups.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But not every group suffered from the backlash. Some, like the Proud Boys, survived and grew.

MEGAN SQUIRE:

There were some that escaped unscathed. They evaded really responsibility and scrutiny after Unite the Right and then came up to rear their ugly heads much later.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Examining 8,000 Facebook accounts affiliated with the Proud Boys, Squire found that many Proud Boys also belonged to white supremacist or fascist groups.

In Squire’s research, one individual stands out: Brien James, the leader of the Indiana chapter of the Proud Boys.

Brien's in this group and this is, like, the most hardcore white supremacist that you're going to find out there.

MEGAN SQUIRE:

Yeah. Yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

We've got the National Socialist Movement represented here. We've got pro-Hitler groups. We've got all kinds of real crazy stuff.

MEGAN SQUIRE:

This is a anti-Muslim group. Here's an anti-immigrant group.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Brien James was a key node in Squire’s map of the Proud Boys. He's been involved with some of the most extreme movements of the last three decades: the Klan; an anti-government militia; and a neo-Nazi gang called the Outlaw Hammerskins.

In 2003, he became the leader of his own gang, called the Vinlanders Social Club.

I pull court records in Indiana. I don't find any cases for James, but members of his gang have been convicted in a string of beatings and homicides.

I’m surprised and a little nervous when he agrees to meet me and talk openly about his past as a skinhead leader.

BRIEN JAMES:

I was kind of a dictator there, and I had a much smaller network of people, but there was no state in the United States I could travel to where I didn't have a place to stay. There was no shortage of women involved in it. We had—it was guys who would kill for you in a second. So I never got caught, or—I was arrested and charged with some pretty bad things in my life, but I got a lawyer and beat all the cases.

A.C. THOMPSON:

James claims he left the white power movement behind years ago.

BRIEN JAMES:

There was a point in my life where if I met you, I would need to know what race you are. You're dark enough, I would need to know. I would obviously know he's not white, and that would have an impact on how I viewed him.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I've met people who've left the white supremacist movement before. Most of them go out of their way to express remorse for the people they've harmed, the things that they've done. I don't hear a lot of that from James.

BRIEN JAMES:

I haven't flipped over to the left, I haven’t gotten—it's not like I've changed, it's just that doesn't matter. It certainly doesn't matter as much as other things. Ideology is the primary motivating factor to me and whether or not the country is going to turn out OK or not.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But James was there in Charlottesville at Unite the Right, marching alongside Nazis and white nationalists. I ask him why, as a man who had supposedly abandoned the white power movement, he was so willing to work with avowed racists.

BRIEN JAMES:

I think most people look back on Charlottesville as a mistake, and I do. I mean, we certainly didn't need those guys. We certainly didn't gain anything from working with those guys, especially after I had left. I thought we were doing something positive, and obviously that day turned out to be a horrible disaster. And the impact of people who was there was pretty severe after it was over. So I thought, all right—

A.C. THOMPSON:

You mean that people went to prison, people left the movement—

BRIEN JAMES:

People lost their jobs, people were deplatformed off of the public forum, people were financially deplatformed.

A.C. THOMPSON:

James doesn’t mention the killing of Heather Heyer or the people murdered by his former gang. But he does spend a lot of time talking about his new ideology, which he calls "civic nationalism," a label adopted by many Proud Boys.

And as a civic nationalist, what are your issues? What are your bedrock beliefs?

BRIEN JAMES:

Individual liberty and adhering to the Constitution as much as possible. I don't like this climate where we take away accountability, where we try to force equality of outcomes instead of equal opportunity. I don't like cancel culture and political correctness, to a large extent.

People see the left is taking over and moving society in a certain direction. So we're just the ones that are the tip of the spear out standing up for that physically.

A.C. THOMPSON:

James tells me that by focusing on political enemies instead of racial ones, he'd gained more support.

BRIEN JAMES:

I mean, I've been doing what I'm doing here for 30 years, and there's normally five, 10 guys in the city, maybe 20 in the state. I have 200 right now.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Wow.

BRIEN JAMES:

Yep.

A.C. THOMPSON:

He’d also found a powerful new ally in Trump.

BRIEN JAMES:

Well, you've got a guy who's a nationalist in the most powerful seat in the world. I mean, we've got a guy who's at least 75, 80, 90% on our side, and he's the president. There's no reason at that point to be an extremist.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You've been involved in right-wing movements for decades now. What was the time period that you found yourself having the most hope for real change?

BRIEN JAMES:

Now.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Now.

BRIEN JAMES:

Yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

After my conversation with Brien James, I check in with a longtime source of mine, Pete Simi. Simi helped me understand RAM and the other groups in Charlottesville and he's continued to track the white supremacist movement.

I just interviewed a guy named Brien James. Have you ever come across this guy?

PETE SIMI, Co-author, American Swastika:

Oh, sure. Yeah. He was, especially during his time as the Vinlanders, he was a big name on the radar and really associated with a lot of violence. The Vinlanders in general were known to be a very volatile, violent group that—they had a guy whose nickname was “The Butcher,” and so this is—

A.C. THOMPSON:

This is the guy with "Murder" tattooed on his throat?

PETE SIMI:

Yeah. Right, right. So, I mean, there was a number of very violent incidents they were involved in.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Simi says that while the Proud Boys may have worked hard to push into the mainstream, many still subscribe to extremist beliefs.

PETE SIMI:

So this is a T-shirt in reference to the mass slaughter of Jewish people during the Holocaust that stands for "6 million wasn't enough." Their view is not to deny the Holocaust, but to say the Holocaust didn't go far enough.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And so he's flying Proud Boys colors and these clearly neo-Nazi ideas here.

PETE SIMI:

We get fixated on all these different groups out there, and from my perspective, I think it's more helpful to think about this as a broad worldview.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The Proud Boys are led by Enrique Tarrio. He's this guy who is a Cuban American man of color. What's going on with that do you think?

PETE SIMI:

If you look at, for instance, the history of the racist skinhead movement in the United States, any number of different racist skinhead crews across the country, they wouldn't be exclusively white, necessarily. You have the capacity for people of various different backgrounds to embrace fascism as an ideology, as a world view. And I think in many respects that's what we're dealing with here is a broad, fascist movement.

DONALD TRUMP:

I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order—

A.C. THOMPSON:

In the summer of 2020, I watched as President Trump rallied that movement in response to the protests after the killing of George Floyd.

DONALD TRUMP:

Our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, antifa and others.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The Proud Boys heard President Trump’s rhetoric as a call to action. They joined other right-wing vigilantes in attacking the protesters. The unrest had become a focal point of Trump’s reelection campaign.

DONALD TRUMP:

If Biden gets in, they will have won. They will have taken over your cities.

These are not acts of peaceful protest, but really domestic terror.

A.C. THOMPSON:

One incident in particular would be blamed on antifa and would become a target of the president’s rage: a drive-by shooting in May at the Oakland federal building.

DONALD TRUMP:

A federal officer in California was shot and killed. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity.

MALE NEWSREADER:

If you don't think that we have been under attack from domestic terrorists, let me show you a picture of one victim. This is Patrick Underwood.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The shooting was nothing like the street violence I’d been seeing, and I started looking into it. I went to see Officer Underwood’s sister.

ANGELA UNDERWOOD JACOBS:

Literally, as I think about him, I think about him lying on the concrete, shot and alone. And the concrete is cold. I—it's been horrific for us, and at the same time it feels like we're constantly reliving it over and over again. So there's—it's hard to say that we've had closure, because we haven't. And actually, I don't know if we ever will. That's the tough part.

At first there's outrage and anger, and then I'm—and then I went to sadness in hoping that we were going to find the people that murdered my brother in cold blood.

A.C. THOMPSON:

How did you get the news?

ANGELA UNDERWOOD JACOBS:

I received a phone call at approximately maybe 4—3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. His fiancee, Stacy, said, "Angela, Pat's been shot. Pat's been shot." And after that, I'm not quite sure what happened, because I don't know—I can't remember if the screaming was from me or if it was from her. And it was just a bit hazy, a bit foggy, because you go completely to a state of denial. "Are you sure? It can't be. What do you mean?" You go through all of those things trying to find some type of logic in an illogical situation.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I see photos from the night of the attack. Security cameras tracked a white van moving through the darkened streets of Oakland. The door slid open, and a gunman opened fire on a guard post in front of the federal building.

But the man arrested by law enforcement didn’t end up being antifa. His name was Steven Carrillo, a 32-year-old Air Force staff sergeant. He represented a new and deadly wave of far-right violence.

KATHRYN HURD, Berkeley Journalism's Investigative Reporting Prog.:

In the surveillance footage, what you can see is the side of the van door just starts slowly opening up, and by the middle of the intersection, the shots begin to fire.

He's on the side of the van—

A.C. THOMPSON:

OK.

KATHRYN HURD:

—facing this way, shooting at the guard post.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Kathryn Hurd is part of a team at the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program. We’ve been working with them on this story.

Wow, still bullet holes here.

KATHRYN HURD:

Yeah. So as you can see, there are still remains on the actual-—

A.C. THOMPSON:

Like there's three—

KATHRYN HURD:

Yeah. There's actually one right here, as well.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Right.

KATHRYN HURD:

But if you actually look on the wall back there—

A.C. THOMPSON:

Yeah.

KATHRYN HURD:

—there are more bullet marks.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What was the kind of weapon that he was using? What do we know about that?

KATHRYN HURD:

So he was using an AR-15 rifle. It's fully automatic, and as you can see from the bullet remains that are both on this guard post and slightly behind it on the wall, that thing got off at least 10 rounds.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And it was a ghost gun, right?

KATHRYN HURD:

It was a ghost gun. It was unmarked. It—which suggests—

A.C. THOMPSON:

So no serial number?

KATHRYN HURD:

No serial number, which suggests that it was privately assembled. Yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Meaning he put it together or somebody put it together for him?

KATHRYN HURD:

Somebody put it together for him, or, from the FBI complaint, what it sounds like is that he was building his own weapons.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You've got a generic white Ford van, no license plate, a gun that doesn't have serial numbers on it with a real common caliber bullet, a 9 mm, and basically it is a mystery at that point with not a lot of clues.

KATHRYN HURD:

Exactly. I mean, people just don't have anything to go off of. They took off into the night down the street and no one was able to catch them.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The gunman disappeared and the trail went cold for a week. Then, here in the woods of Santa Cruz County, some 80 miles away, a worker made a startling discovery.

SHERIFF JIM HART, Santa Cruz County:

He was setting some game cameras up in the forest and came across this van. And he looked in it and reported that it had some bomb-making equipment.

There was no license plate on the van, but there was a VIN number. And it came back to the Carrillo residence.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Sheriff Jim Hart says his deputies, along with highway patrol, went to Carrillo's house, up this winding mountain road.

JIM HART:

These are very remote, isolated areas. The topographies were very steep. Sgt. Gutzwiller and Alex Spencer get to the house. When they did, they're down on the roadway below the house when the shot was fired.

Carrillo was putting a lot of rounds downstream. And he was maybe 40 feet away, from a position of cover. Our people couldn't even see where he was at. Then Alex Spencer stood up and spun to engage up the hillside, and Alex got shot. And then a few seconds after that, a pipe bomb exploded near him, and he was hit with some shrapnel from that as well.

They then engaged him in a gun fight. Officer Estey was shot in the hand. They were able to put a round into Carrillo's abdomen, and then Carrillo fled down a hillside.

I think he was intent on shooting police that day, so I think he was going to come to the command post.

A.C. THOMPSON:

After fatally shooting Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, law enforcement says that Carrillo escaped in a stolen car. He later abandoned the vehicle and continued on foot.

CLARA RICABAL:

All of a sudden I hear some cries for help.

MALE VOICE:

Help! Help! Help!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Clara Ricabal arrived on the scene by chance and began filming with her cellphone.

CLARA RICABAL:

He had blood on his leg and so—I mean, I knew that was the guy that they were looking for.

A.C. THOMPSON:

She saw a local resident, a man she calls “the hero,” wrestle Carrillo to the ground.

MALE SPEAKER 1:

It’s the guy!

FEMALE VOICE:

How do they know?

MALE SPEAKER 2:

He's got a gun.

MALE SPEAKER 3:

Pipe bomb!

MALE SPEAKER 1:

There’s a f------gun, a pistol right there.

FEMALE VOICE:

Holy s---. You want me to hold your dog?

MALE SPEAKER 2:

No, stay back! There’s a gun right there at your feet.

FEMALE VOICE:

Oh!

A.C. THOMPSON:

The hero grabbed him, took him to the ground.

CLARA RICABAL:

Mmm-hmm. And the gun flew—

A.C. THOMPSON:

The rifle flies off at that point.

CLARA RICABAL:

Uh-huh. And then he reaches in, I think, his chest area and grabs a pipe bomb. And then the hero knocks that out like Chuck Norris and it flies and then when he grabbed the pistol, I believe it was in his boot, and then when he held it to his head, that's when—

A.C. THOMPSON:

So Carrillo had the gun to the hero's head?

CLARA RICABAL:

Mmm-hmm.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Wow.

FEMALE VOICE:

Please, you guys! Please!

MALE VOICE:

Hey! We are holding him on the ground right here.

FEMALE VOICE:

There's a gun! Please! He's going to get up, there's only two people holding him down! He's on the ground, and the machine gun or the rifle, whatever, is right over here.

MALE VOICE:

Two guns and a pipe bomb.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Secure the dog.

FEMALE VOICE:

Oh, my God, I'm shaking.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

The safety's on?

CLARA RICABAL:

You could see the pipe bomb over here. It had landed on a step. And I guess the pistol was over here.

A.C. THOMPSON:

When it was all over, Steven Carrillo had allegedly killed two officers and seriously injured two others. But why?

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

The police are the guard dogs, you know, ready to attack whenever the owner says, "Hey, sic 'em, boy."

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA, Berkeley Journalism's Investigative Reporting Prog.:

The first interview with Steven Carrillo was 20 minutes long. And that second one lasted for an hour and a half.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So you've spoken to him for almost two hours.

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA:

Yes.

THOMPSON:

Gisela Perez de Acha is one of our reporting partners at UC Berkeley. Carrillo spoke to her from jail, where he's awaiting trial. She's the only journalist to have interviewed him.

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

The police is—it’s the government’s strong arm, basically.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Before he was captured, Carrillo wrote messages in his own blood, including a single word that would be the key to all the chaos: "Boog."

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

And what the Boogaloo is, is a revolution. Revolutionary thought—

A.C. THOMPSON:

Carrillo told Perez de Acha that he was part of a movement called the Boogaloo Bois.

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

The Boogaloo movement? It’s about people that love freedom, liberty, and they're unhappy with the level of control that the government takes over our lives. Being free to do what you want as long as you don't hurt anyone else.

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA [recording]:

Aren't you accused of hurting someone?

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

Oh, that's what I'm accused of. But back to the example, that's what I wanted to get to. You know, it's the freedom of choice, the freedom of expression.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Carrillo has pleaded not guilty, and he wouldn’t answer questions about the shootings.

Did you find it hard to get him to actually—

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA:

It was so hard. It was so hard. He would just deny and skirt every question.

[recording] How did you come to this? How did you—because you said you didn't read a lot before.

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

Basically through friends. Friends—the Air Force. Once I joined the Air Force I traveled around the world. I met people from all over the world. And just talking to people changed my whole views.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So do you think that he's saying that he found these radical ideas in the military?

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA:

Yeah. I think—mainly from my conversations with him, I think he was definitely radicalized at the Air Force.

STEVEN CARRILLO [recording]:

I love my country. There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss putting on the uniform, the Air Force uniform, and going to work and doing my part.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Once again, just as after Charlottesville, I was seeing an extremist inside the military. And based on the Berkeley team’s reporting, Carrillo was far from alone.

ELLIE LIGHTFOOT, Berkeley Journalism's Investigative Reporting Prog.:

We matched their photo on their Facebook with the Air Force website.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The team identified at least 15 active-duty airmen openly promoting Boogaloo content on Facebook. Like Carrillo, eight of them served in the Air Force security branch.

KATHRYN HURD:

It was kind of substantiating this relationship we had already been digging into between the military and military experience and this so-called Boogaloo movement. We started to put the pieces together and say, "OK, these are people with legitimate military experience who are going out and creating noise on behalf of this movement, Boogaloo Bois."

A.C. THOMPSON:

So was Steven Carrillo part of a local or regional chapter or cell or militia? What was the deal?

ELLIE LIGHTFOOT:

Yeah, we know that he was a part of a local militia group called the Grizzly Scouts.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So did Stephen ever train with these guys? Did he meet up with them?

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA:

He did. They had two meetings. The first was on April 25. And when you think about it, that's only six weeks before the alleged Oakland shooting. And the second time was on May 9.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So right before the shooting?

GISELA PEREZ DE ACHA:

Right before that, yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And what was your sense of their ideology?

KATHRYN HURD:

The movement’s decentralized. Anyone can call themselves a Boogaloo Boi. Just because there's a group of Boogaloo Bois who say, "We're colorblind, look at these people who affiliate with our group who are not white" doesn't mean that there aren't white supremacists who affiliate with the Boogaloo movement. They're very much so fluid, in a sense.

ISELA PEREZ DE ACHA:

Ultimately, the Boogaloo means a violent insurrection. Ultimately, whatever the spectrum you're in as a Boogaloo Boi, you are wishing and actively pushing for a violent insurrection.

KATHRYN HURD:

I think in Steven Carrillo's case what's really interesting is if you saw some of the posts he was putting on Facebook prior to that event, he was like, "Let's use these protests to our advantage. Let's go out, and sort of use this moment to capitalize on it."

A.C. THOMPSON:

The Air Force wouldn’t comment on Carrillo's case or the other members of the service we identified as connected to the Boogaloo Bois. They said the FBI was leading the investigation into Carrillo.

I kept reporting on the movement, trying to figure out its reach and capabilities.

Outwardly, they’re quirky: Hawaiian shirts, igloo patches and ironic memes. Their ideology is all over the map. I find a Boogaloo Telegram channel filled with neo-Nazi propaganda, and another one with statements denouncing systemic racism.

But there is one unifying idea: the desire for a violent insurrection.

In our reporting, we found more than a dozen men linked to the movement who’d been arrested on weapons or explosives charges. One allegedly planned to execute a police officer and livestream it on Facebook. Another, Ivan Hunter, was charged for shooting up a police precinct in Minneapolis. He pleaded not guilty, but court records show an online chat between Hunter and Steven Carrillo.

“Go for police buildings,” Hunter says.

Carrillo responds, just hours after the killing of the federal officer in Oakland, “I did better lol.”

J FLINTLOCK:

What’s up, everyone? This is another episode of "Flintlock Faction." I am your host, J Flintlock.

A.C. THOMPSON:

"Flintlock Faction" is a podcast popular in Boogaloo circles.

J FLINTLOCK:

Today I am being graced with his presence, Guerrilla Instructor! What’s up, dude?

GUERRILLA INSTRUCTOR:

[laughs] Nothing much, man, just glad to be here.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Host J Flintlock, who claims to be a current National Guardsman, chats with his guest, who says he’s a former soldier. They discuss carrying out an insurrection.

GUERRILLA INSTRUCTOR:

A lot of regular infantry guys, cav scouts, MPs. We've never done insurgency-type things, but we need to develop those tactics. I think we're gonna see a lot more sabotage and assassination.

J FLINTLOCK:

This is all hypothetical. For now, we're not—

GUERRILLA INSTRUCTOR:

Oh, purely hypothetical. In Minecraft.

J FLINTLOCK:

We love cops. We love them so much.

A.C. THOMPSON:

This episode, uploaded three weeks before Officer Underwood was gunned down in Oakland, gleefully advocates drive-by shootings.

J FLINTLOCK:

You know, I saw on your on your page "How to Perform a Drive-By Shooting," and I was like, man, that’s some real gangsta s--- right there. [laughs]

GUERRILLA INSTRUCTOR:

I believe, honestly, that drive-bys will be our greatest tool because it's very easy to teach. It's "hey, let's get three guys in an SUV, roll up on this target, shoot it up, kill two dudes and run off."

J FLINTLOCK:

Right.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I don’t know if Steven Carrillo ever heard "Flintlock Faction," but the similarities between the podcast and the shootings in Oakland are haunting.

I try to speak with the FBI about the Carrillo case. The bureau won’t talk, but John Bennett, a recently retired agent who oversaw the investigation, agrees to meet with me. He tells me he’s become increasingly concerned about the Boogaloo Bois.

JOHN BENNETT, Retired FBI Special Agent in Charge:

They were a very obscure group that all of a sudden came on the radar. While I understood skinheads and neo-Nazis and MS-13 and ISIS and all the groups that are violent around the world, Boogaloo? And the whole term just seemed nonsensical.

So you'll see a lot of them carry. You'll see a lot of them in their Hawaiian shirts, because that is part of their uniform. But generally, there's a lot of wannabe. They want to go out and they're going to go camping and they're going to do—they're going to go paintballing so they can get their tactics down. And it's really a bunch of kids playing army, is the easiest thing I can relate it to.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Right.

JOHN BENNETT:

Except some of them have taken it, no kidding, "We're going to go ahead and put live rounds in our guns, and we're going to do something that's going to be terrible and impact people's lives."

They want to be the instigators, the front line of the civil war that's going to happen in this country, and they’re convinced "we’re going to be ready and we're going to be the ones that are going to survive."

A.C. THOMPSON:

I need to see the movement for myself. I go to Virginia, where a Boogaloo cell is marching against a local gun ordinance. Fifty protesters show up. They have body armor, assault rifles and outlawed high-capacity magazines. They carry igloo flags and wear Hawaiian shirts and ironic patches.

The group is led by Mike Dunn.

So how are you feeling about today?

MIKE DUNN:

Liberty shall not be infringed.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Has this been a success in your mind?

MIKE DUNN:

Liberty shall not be infringed.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Dunn postures like a seasoned squad leader. But this doesn’t look like a group that’s going to lead a violent insurrection.

I can see the threat they pose, though. Boogoloo Bois have demonstrated the potential to carry out acts of violence. Some in law enforcement and the intelligence community also saw this threat. But I’ve been told that their concerns were rejected by the White House.

ELIZABETH NEUMANN, Asst. Sec. of Counterterrorism, DHS, 2017-20:

Among the counterterrorism community, we took it very seriously. But you really do need that presidential-level leadership saying, "This is a threat. We are going to use all of our tools to go after this threat." That never happened under Trump.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Elizabeth Neumann was one of the top counterterrorism officials in the Trump administration. She says she tried to warn the White House about the rising threat of far-right extremists, but the president and his allies claimed the real threat was from Black Lives Matter and antifa.

ELIZABETH NEUMANN:

Does antifa exist? It's not an organization, it's a movement. You have groups of people that associate with them. Do they show up at protests? Sure. Is it a massive conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and kill a lot of people? No. You know where that is? It's on the right. It's in the white supremacist movement. It's in the antigovernment militia movement. It's in the Boogaloo Boi movement. It's not in the anti-fascist movement.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Neumann says she watched with alarm as President Trump didn’t just ignore the threat of domestic extremism, he incited it.

ELIZABETH NEUMANN:

He attacked the governor of Michigan, he attacked the governor of Virginia for their pandemic mitigation measures and was using rhetoric like, "You gotta take your state back. You've got to push back against your governor."

Now, not all of them are going to radicalize. Not all of them are going to commit an act of violence. But that is a huge pool of people to be vulnerable. Meanwhile, we have active white supremacist organizations, neo-Nazis, we have a Boogaloo Bois movement looking for ways to attack our country, ways to commit acts of violence.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Neumann resigned in frustration from DHS in April 2020. By October, her warnings seemed to be coming true. Police and federal agents arrested 14 militia members and charged them in connection with a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, try her in their own court and potentially execute her for treason.

DONALD TRUMP:

We’ve had a big problem with the young woman governor from—you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan.

A.C. THOMPSON:

For months Trump had been railing against the governor and her COVID restrictions. And even after the plot was revealed, his attacks continued.

DONALD TRUMP:

You've got to get your governor to open up your state, OK?

CROWD [chanting]:

Lock her up! Lock her up!

DONALD TRUMP:

Lock 'em all up.

A.C. THOMPSON:

A kidnapping plot against a sitting governor. It was a shocking escalation in tactics.

Not long after the arrests, I went to Michigan to investigate. The FBI identified the militia behind the plot as the Wolverine Watchmen. Their social media is full of Boogaloo iconography, and law enforcement has connected them to militia members in at least four states.

Among the people arrested for the kidnapping plot were Joe Morrison and his father-in-law, Pete Musico, the founders of the Wolverine Watchmen. Also arrested was Barry Croft, who prosecutors call “probably the most committed violent extremist of the entire group.”

According to the FBI, some of the plotters convened secret meetings at this vacuum store in Grand Rapids. An FBI informant recorded the conversations. They met in this basement. In one recording, a member of the group describes a plan to seize the governor from her vacation home and put her on trial.

“Snatch and grab,” he tells the informant. “Grab the governor, because at that point, it’s over.”

I wanted to know more about the Wolverine Watchmen, about how far their network went.

MALE PROTESTER [chanting]:

USA! USA! USA! USA!

A.C. THOMPSON:

I hear that several militias will be gathering at a rally in a suburb of Grand Rapids. I decide to show up.

Even so soon after the arrests, militia members seem undaunted. They march in the streets, openly supporting the alleged plotters and condemning the governor.

KATHERINE HENRY, Restore Freedom:

This governor tries to control us, trampling all over our God-given individual liberties.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The militia doing security today is missing two of its members: the Null brothers, who were charged as part of the kidnapping plot.

KATHERINE HENRY:

Militia members are being arrested and stripped of their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And I can’t speak for all of them, but I know two of them, because two of them have stood right beside me at these very events. And I feel a heck of a lot safer when they’re around me.

FEMALE VOICE:

Free the Nulls!

KATHERINE HENRY:

Yeah, free the Null brothers. Exactly.

MALE VOICE:

Whitmer’s still walking around!

KATHERINE HENRY:

[laughs] Whitmer’s still walking around. What are you talking about?

FEMALE VOICE:

Lock her up!

CROWD [chanting]:

Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

KATHERINE HENRY:

Hey, careful! You guys say that out loud, they're going to try to arrest you for attempting to kidnap her, too.

CROWD [chanting]:

Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

A.C. THOMPSON:

They weren’t just angry—they considered the governor’s COVID restrictions criminal. And the state’s Republicans were even preparing articles of impeachment to that effect.

JEFF ANDERSON:

The people are getting really mad that what she’s done, they have found out is illegal, and she should be arrested, and nothing's being done.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And so you think the Wolverine Watchmen and the other guys were planning to arrest her? You think that’s what was going on?

JEFF ANDERSON:

Yeah. That's—yes. It was going to be a citizen’s arrest.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You think there's a lot of people that feel that way in Michigan?

JEFF ANDERSON:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. People are upset. They're very, very upset at Whitmer. Very upset.

A.C. THOMPSON:

This anger at the governor had been boiling since the spring, when militias rallied at the state Capitol. According to the FBI, it was here that the kidnapping plot first began to coalesce.

CROWD [chanting]:

Let us in! Let us in!

MALE PROTESTER:

Open the door!

CROWD [chanting]:

Let us in! Let us in!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Egged on by President Trump—who had tweeted "LIBERATE MICHIGAN"—heavily armed militia members stormed the Capitol building.

CROWD [chanting]:

Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!

A.C. THOMPSON:

With chants of “tyranny” and “Heil Whitmer” they confronted lawmakers.

MALE PROTESTER:

Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler to Whitmer!

CROWD [chanting]:

Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Looking back, it seems like a precursor to what would happen at the U.S. Capitol. Armed protesters made it into the legislators’ gallery and disrupted the session. Rep. Sarah Anthony was there that day.

REP. SARAH ANTHONY, MI House of Representatives:

April 30, when armed gunmen stormed the Capitol building, is probably the most terrifying thing that I've ever experienced in my life.

Filled. This lobby was filled, all around, up these steps, is where we had hundreds of people.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And most of them were armed?

SARAH ANTHONY:

Oh, absolutely.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Wow.

SARAH ANTHONY:

Absolutely armed.

When we got word that they were coming into the building, just sheer fear went through my body, and I can tell you that other legislators, on both sides of the aisle, were very fearful as well.

I was on the floor and I missed three calls from my mom. She was not sure if her daughter was going to make it home alive.

A.C. THOMPSON:

When we spoke, the attack in Washington, D.C., was still months away, but Anthony was already worried where things might be heading next.

SARAH ANTHONY:

2020 has been building up, it's been a slow fire. It's like a powder keg. I don't know when that explosion is going to happen or what form it's going to take.

A.C. THOMPSON:

In footage from April 30, you can see six of the alleged kidnapping plotters. One is visible with a Boogaloo-style Hawaiian shirt and an AR-15 at the front of the protesters. The Wolverine Watchmen founder, Pete Musico, is in the footage, too, calling the legislators “traitors.”

PETE MUSICO:

Traitors!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Musico and his son-in-law pleaded not guilty to charges related to the kidnapping plot.

I find property records in Jackson for a parcel of land in Musico's name. He was being held in the Jackson County Jail. His home may be empty, but I decide to take a look.

Hey, how you doing?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

No comment. Thank you.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Hey, we would love to get in touch with Pete and Joseph. I saw what they've been saying to—

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

Yeah. That's why I can't comment, because they put out so much misinformation.

A.C. THOMPSON:

That's what—we want to figure out what really happened. I saw what Pete was saying in court and what his attorney said and we would love to talk to his attorney.

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

I'm dealing with it. Tell her just settle down.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And I'm real interested in what really happened.

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

I'm sure a lot of people are.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Crystal Musico is nervous, but eager to speak about the FBI raid and the arrest of her husband.

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

They separated us all and questioned us, each one. It was always about politics.

A.C. THOMPSON:

About politics and Boogaloo.

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

Right now, we won't have anything to do with politics anymore. There won't be anything. If you want to vote, vote. Great, vote. I hope it does you some good, because it ain't done us nothing but give us heartache.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Pete was at the rallies at the Capitol, right?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

Mmm-hmm.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Why do you think he went out there?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

To protest.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Did you go? Did you go?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

I did go to one. I went to one.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Did Pete bring arms when he went to the protest?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

Yes.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Why'd he do that?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

Because he has that right.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So what I see in the law enforcement bulletins and what I see in the court charges are Boogaloo movement is about violently overthrowing the government, starting a civil war and killing cops. And to me, that's fairly shocking.

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

It is shocking. It is shocking to hear all that. But it's also shocking to know that a cop is legally allowed to stand on your neck and kill you. It is shocking that that's allowed and people are OK with that. Because I'm not, but I ain't doing nothing about it.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And you think that this is in part a response to concerns about police abuse and about police—

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

I think it's a response to a lot of concerns, more than just police.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What else?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

The way the country is going. This is all in the Bible. You can believe it or not, I don't care. Your faith is not mine to judge, and mine's not yours to judge.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But you think this will—are we at the end of days, do you think?

CRYSTAL MUSICO:

Yeah. I do believe so. I think we're on the third day. Jesus rose on the third day.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Crystal Musico’s beliefs have deep roots here in Michigan. Nearly 30 years ago, this was the epicenter of the modern militia movement. The Michigan Militia was once considered the nation’s largest, claiming 10,000 members. Timothy McVeigh reportedly attended some of its meetings before he blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

DANA NESSEL, Michigan Attorney General:

Can you hear me?

A.C. THOMPSON:

I can!

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel knows the history well. She says the new generation of militias is different.

DANA NESSEL:

I think the difference is that these folks felt supported by those in government, and perhaps at the highest levels of government.

You had the president of the United States calling her out by name, calling her a dictator, saying that individuals should liberate Michigan. The president of the United States, after these armed gunmen had more or less taken over our Capitol building, his words were that these are very fine people and the governor ought to sit down and negotiate with them. Can you imagine? That sounds like a hostage crisis more than anything.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Have you gotten threats? I mean, have people threatened your life?

DANA NESSEL:

[laughs] I'm sorry to laugh. But it's like you should be asking me, "How many days a week are you not getting death threats?" And that's not just me; it's our secretary of state, it's our governor.

I think that we would be lying if we said that we never got worried, we never got scared for ourselves or for our family members.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Though the DOJ is handling some of the kidnapping cases, Nessel is prosecuting Pete Musico and seven of the other alleged plotters.

Do you think these arrests neutralize the threat?

DANA NESSEL:

As of today, right now, do I think that it's still a significant concern in Michigan? I do.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Nessel says the threat from militias is real and has been evolving for years. A new wave of militias emerged during the Iraq War, groups like the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters. But they’ve never been accused of anything like the terror attributed to the Boogoloo and Wolverine Watchmen.

I’m told about a location where the Watchmen allegedly trained and prepared for the kidnapping operation. The camp is deserted. Its training course, with spray painted human targets, is littered with spent shells.

According to federal prosecutors, the Watchmen blew up a homemade bomb here. Neighbors tell me they heard the blast a half-mile away. The bomb was allegedly built by the man prosecutors describe as one of the plot’s masterminds, Barry Croft.

Croft is being held in a Michigan jail. In FBI recordings, he claimed he had been granted permission from God to commit murder.

I try to contact him through his lawyer but get nowhere. And then, I get an email. Croft wants to talk.

BARRY CROFT:

Good morning, sir. How are you?

Even though my attorney told me not to speak to you, I felt it necessary to clear my name. Somebody has got to say something contrary to what the federal propagated mainstream media's putting out there, and that's why I came to you.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Is there anything you can say about the Wolverine Watchmen?

BARRY CROFT:

I'm very unfamiliar with their quote-unquote "militia." I wasn't a member. I was only tied in by satellite individuals.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Croft has pleaded not guilty, and he won’t talk about anything specifically related to the kidnapping plot. But he lays out arguments against the federal government as if he were before a court.

BARRY CROFT:

This comes straight out of the Black's Law Dictionary. It's the word junta, J-U-N-T-A. Definition number one, a military government that has come into power by force. People need to realize that they are being ruled by an illegitimate authority that is in effect.

A.C. THOMPSON:

To clarify on that.

BARRY CROFT:

Go ahead.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Basically you feel like we're all under military rule in this country.

BARRY CROFT:

Yes, sir.

A.C. THOMPSON:

In addition to his ties to the Watchmen, the FBI says he’s a leader of the Three Percenters, a national network of militia groups.

BARRY CROFT:

If you look under the militia statute, every able-bodied American male, 17 to 45, is considered in the unorganized militia. The militia is absolutely necessary to the security of a free state.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I saw an interview with you, and you were wearing a Hawaiian shirt with your tricorn hat.

BARRY CROFT:

[laughs] Yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What do you think of the Boogaloo movement?

BARRY CROFT:

I got a kick out of those kids because even though you might find some Boogaloo Bois that are over here, some are over there, at least they're paying attention. They're young, they're motivated—

A.C. THOMPSON:

And they're militant.

BARRY CROFT:

Um, yeah. They're militant. Unfortunately, when you try talking and talking and talking and you don't get anywhere, militant is the obvious natural progression. That's it. You leave them no choice.

And I got a kick out of those kids. They—you know, the one out of Virginia, Mike Dunn. You look at him and he's an inspiration.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Did you ever meet Mike Dunn? Did you ever talk to him online?

BARRY CROFT:

I talked to him on the phone once or twice before they came and wrapped me up.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Mike Dunn. Before his arrest, Barry Croft had been in contact with the Boogaloo leader I’d seen at the rally in Richmond.

Dunn is just 20 years old. He’d joined the Marines out of high school but says he was medically discharged with a heart condition, and he leads one of the most visible Boogaloo chapters in the country.

Dunn lives in rural Virginia.

MIKE DUNN:

We definitely are the modern militia. We're the ones crazy enough to actually do something.

I think that a lot of people, especially on the right, Republicans, realized that it was no longer an America of liberty. I think a lot of people woke up to that in these past four years.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So the Trump presidency is eroding people's faith in the government further.

MIKE DUNN:

I wouldn't say that he's necessarily helped erode it further. I think he's just helped spotlight it further. I believe a lot of people were already skeptical, and then I think there are some that saw the president of the United States being skeptical and said, "Maybe we should, too."

A.C. THOMPSON:

Is this a movement that's hierarchical? Are there commanders? Are there leaders? How does it work?

MIKE DUNN:

There are Boogaloo cells within the movement. You have a fire team—four people, five people, six people, whatever—and those teams have a leader that they answer to generally. As far as a leader for the movement itself, no, there's not a leader.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You're sketching out a decentralized network—

MIKE DUNN:

Basically.

A.C. THOMPSON:

—where you have different nodes on that network that may have a leader, may have a commander and a structure, but overall there's no overarching general who's calling the shots.

MIKE DUNN:

No. No, there's not.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What do you think of these guys in Michigan who were allegedly targeting the governor?

MIKE DUNN:

I feel they did what should happen across the United States in a lot of places. They were going to take a stand against what they perceived to be tyranny.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Did you interact with those guys, the Michigan people?

MIKE DUNN:

Yeah, I'd interacted with a couple.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Online or in person?

MIKE DUNN:

Online.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What about Steve Carrillo, the guy from California?

MIKE DUNN:

Steve Carrillo, yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You talked to him?

MIKE DUNN:

Yeah, a lot of people in the movement knew who Steve was.

A.C. THOMPSON:

So you messaged with him?

MIKE DUNN:

I'm not going to comment.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But you saw him online?

MIKE DUNN:

I knew who he was.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You knew who he was?

MIKE DUNN:

Yeah.

A.C. THOMPSON:

What did you think when he got arrested?

MIKE DUNN:

I'm sure he had a reason for targeting who he targeted, and so be it.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I don’t buy a lot of Dunn’s claims. But listening to him is unsettling. It’s clear that many in the movement are connected, and they seem to be growing more radical with each new arrest.

There's been a bunch of arrests—

MIKE DUNN:

[laughs] Yes, there has been.

A.C. THOMPSON:

—in the last month.

MIKE DUNN:

A lot.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You worried about those guys?

MIKE DUNN:

I think that a lot of them will take care of themselves while they're in, and when they get out we'll welcome them with open arms. Or we have a revolution and we free them. When things pop off, we're going to be liberating them first.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Are you worried that more people are going to get wrapped up?

MIKE DUNN:

Yeah, more than likely. I just hope they go out shooting, killing the ones who come to enforce unconstitutional law. So be it.

We're past the point of peace. I think about a revolution against the government. I do believe it's inevitable.

A.C. THOMPSON:

With tensions high, Washington, D.C., boards up as if the election was a hurricane headed for the city. A Trump victory could further embolden the far-right movements that see him as a champion. A defeat could further radicalize them.

Throughout the year, the president had been whipping up fears that the election would be stolen, and as the night wears on with no concession speech, no declared winner, the moment seems full of danger.

The next morning, with the nation on edge, I sit down with Mary McCord, a former counterterrorism official at the U.S. Justice Department.

MARY McCORD, Acting Asst. Attorney General, 2016-17:

Obviously, as of last night, and even this morning, there's a fair bit of uncertainty in terms of the ballot counting.

We're in a tenuous situation in waiting to see how the right-wing organizations will react. And if Biden is declared the winner, then I certainly have some concerns that those on the right who think maybe this is the result of fraud or a rigged election, particularly if the president is saying so, will take more aggressive action along the lines of what we saw earlier this year in opposition to, for example, governors' stay-at-home orders.

A.C. THOMPSON:

McCord tracks extremist groups and was instrumental in suing the militias who’d shown up in Charlottesville.

MARY McCORD:

Under this presidency, the far-right, unlawful militias have felt much more license to publicly engage. It's given them a real opportunity. And they've said this from the beginning.

I trace a lot of things to Charlottesville's Unite the Right rally. When the president’s talked about very fine people on both sides, I mean, that was immediate. Right-wing groups, including militia groups, just grabbed ahold of that language, and it helps them recruit, it helps them fundraise, it helps them expand.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You come a few years into the future, and now we're seeing that all the time in the present day.

MARY McCORD:

So much more so than I had ever seen before. If we think back about militias, we remember things like Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas. And even more recently, the Bundy ranch standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, or the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff. Still, those looked very different than what we're seeing now with going into downtown areas, whether it's small towns in Idaho, Sandpoint or Coeur d'Alene or—

A.C. THOMPSON:

Or Portland.

MARY McCORD:

Or big cities like Portland, right?

They feel that they have the president's approval, and they're using that, and that's partly why we're seeing them more and more and more on the streets. Not just in one or two areas of the country, but across the country.

A.C. THOMPSON:

If Trump leaves office, what kind of legacy do you think he'll leave behind?

MARY McCORD:

A lot of it will depend on what he's continuing to say once he leaves office—if he does leave office. If he continues to say that the election was stolen from him, again, that will give these groups something to coalesce around.

A.C. THOMPSON:

On Nov. 14, one week after the election was called for Joe Biden, Trump supporters take to the streets in Washington. Stirred up by the president’s refusal to concede, they demand that the results be overturned.

FEMALE PROTESTERS [chanting]:

Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump!

MALE PROTESTER:

Trump 2020!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Hundreds of Proud Boys gather, by far the largest contingent I’ve ever seen assembled.

CROWD [singing]:

We'll all roll the chariots along, and we'll all hang on behind!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Brien James is here, both as a Proud Boy and leading his own group called the American Guard.

BRIEN JAMES:

—wouldn't do us any harm.

CROWD [singing]:

—wouldn't do us any harm, and we'll all hang on behind!

PROUD BOY:

Who's our president?

CROWD:

Trump's our president!

PROUD BOY:

Uhuru!

CROWD:

Uhuru!

PROUD BOY RECRUIT:

I refuse to apologize.

PROUD BOY 2:

For creating the modern world!

PROUD BOY RECRUIT:

For creating the modern world!

PROUD BOY 2:

I am a Proud Boy!

PROUD BOY RECRUIT:

I am a Proud Boy!

CROWD:

Uhuru!

A.C. THOMPSON:

New Proud Boys are initiated and they march through the streets.

CROWD [chanting]:

USA! USA! USA! USA!

A.C. THOMPSON:

I see former Nazi skinheads with the Proud Boys. They mix with mainstream Trump supporters. It was the kind of crowd that would turn out again and again to support Trump's efforts to overturn the election.

FEMALE PROTESTER [chanting]:

All lives matter!

CROWD [chanting]:

All lives matter!

A.C. THOMPSON:

As night falls, Proud Boys merge with MAGA marchers and roam the city looking for fights. Trump supporters confront journalists—

MALE PROTESTER:

An enemy of the people!

A.C. THOMPSON:

—vandalize Black Lives Matter signs and fight with activists who try to stop them.

MALE POLICE OFFICER:

Get out of here!

A.C. THOMPSON:

A month later, Trump supporters take to the streets of Washington again, and once again, the protests turn violent.

And then, he calls his supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

DONALD TRUMP:

We’re going to walk down—and I’ll be there with you—we’re going walk down to the Capitol.

You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.

We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing.

And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.

A.C. THOMPSON:

As the clock runs out on his presidency, he urges them towards the Capitol building.

The Proud Boys are here, but they aren’t wearing their trademark yellow and black.

The Boogaloo Bois are here, too, also out of uniform.

They both blend into the pro-Trump crowd.

Inside, Congress is trying to certify the election.

Outside, the crowd is bearing down on them.

MALE PROTESTER:

Whose house?

CROWD [chanting]:

Our house!

MALE PROTESTER:

Whose house?

CROWD [chanting]:

Our house!

A.C. THOMPSON:

But the police on the steps are outnumbered and unprepared.

CROWD [chanting]:

USA! USA! USA!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Around 140 police officers are injured. One officer, Brian Sicknick, will later die.

A Proud Boy from New York state smashes through a window. The Capitol has been breached.

A Proud Boy broke the window, but what about the crowd behind him? A mob, urged on by the president, willing to embrace an insurrectionary violence that was once confined only to the most extreme elements of the far right.

Bewildered, some wander through the halls. Others move towards the Senate Chamber.

Police struggle to hold them off while congressmembers flee through back exits. The mob surges through the hallways, searching for them, coming within feet of their targets.

CROWD [chanting]:

Break it down! Break it down! Break it down!

A.C. THOMPSON:

Rioters try to break into a hallway that lawmakers are escaping through.

A protester is shot and killed.

Three other rioters die in the mayhem.

MALE RIOTER:

Let's go! Let's go!

MALE RIOTER 2:

Let me out of here, guys.

A.C. THOMPSON:

It would be hours before the Capitol was cleared.

The morning after the attack, Congress’s hallways are deserted.

I meet with Rep. André Carson.

REP. ANDRÉ CARSON, (D) IN:

I was alerted by a Capitol police officer that I needed to stay in my office. Now as a former police officer, my instinct is to get more information and participate. But these group of officers urged me to stay in my office.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Carson served in a police anti-terrorism unit in Indiana. In Congress, he is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

ANDRÉ CARSON:

I can remember when I first served on the intelligence committee, there were leaders in the FBI under the Obama administration who very arrogantly and self-righteously talked about how they were going to defend our country against these terrorist attacks, so-called Muslim attacks. But when it comes to white supremacists, the FBI is too silent. It has to change. It has to change. Much more work needs to be done.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Hey, Mike. Are you there?

MIKE DUNN [on phone]:

Hang on. Yeah, man. So how are you?

A.C. THOMPSON:

All right, man. It's a gray day in D.C.

MIKE DUNN [on phone]:

It's a gray time for our nation, as well.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I reach Mike Dunn later. He says he hadn’t been at the Capitol riot, but I want to find out what he’s thinking.

So in your mind, what changed for the Boogaloo movement on Wednesday?

MIKE DUNN [on phone]:

We realized that we're a lot closer to a revolution. Our recruiting and interest went completely through the roof as well. They're beginning to understand that the only answer is revolution.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Proud Boys didn't wear yellow and black, the Boogs are not wearing Hawaiian shirts. Do you think we're in a new phase in the struggle?

MIKE DUNN [on phone]:

I think that people are learning and adapting. I think we're definitely looking at armed insurrection. Many of us in this movement, myself and a lot of other young people like me, have come to grips with the fact that death is a reality. It's coming. We just want ours to count.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Washington goes on lockdown. The National Guard patrols the streets. Law enforcement agencies across the country spring into action.

After Charlottesville, it took months for the FBI to build a handful of cases. But within weeks of Jan. 6, there have been more than 130 arrests.

I search the list of names. Many of the individuals charged are affiliated with groups I’ve been tracking. But even more of them have no apparent ties to extremist groups at all.

What did it all mean?

JOHN BENNETT, Managing Director, Kroll:

I think Jan. 6, I think it really surprised everybody. Here are groups that profess to be law and order in this country, and then here are cops that are in the group that are beating on other cops. That is unheard of.

A.C. THOMPSON:

I asked the former FBI agent John Bennett for his takeaway from the Jan. 6 attack.

When you were seeing the early news reports from Jan. 6, did you think, "Hey, this is a well-organized conspiracy"?

JOHN BENNETT:

I didn't think this was well-organized at all. I think this was opportunistic. They were banging on doors and opening doors that led to hallways and stairwells. They had no idea what the layout was, and they were shocked that they got in there.

You've had a pandemic, people who have lost jobs, people who questioned the legitimacy of elections. I think this was chum in the water, and blood in the water, and it became a feeding frenzy.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Do you feel like now what you’re seeing is radical fringe ideologies migrating into the mainstream and sort of moving out of those small fringe groups into broader circulation?

JOHN BENNETT:

The skinheads and all of that neo-Nazi side of things, that is something people really don't want to be associated with. But what the scary thing is a lot of people in these groups that we're seeing now are your neighbors, are your—the truck drivers and the doctors that believe in this.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You spent years investigating domestic terror cases. When you think about the future of political violence in this country, are you worried about another Jan. 6, where it's sort of a mass eruption, or are you more worried about an individual act of terrorism by an individual or a small cell?

JOHN BENNETT:

It's those individuals and those people who are plotting without a lot of people around them that are very challenging for any law enforcement to investigate. Referring back to the Jan. 6 events, there was an individual who placed pipe bombs who has not been identified yet. That’s the type of person that we’re really concerned about.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Intelligence and law enforcement sources keep warning me about the two sides of the extremist threat: an expanding pool of radicalized individuals and small groups of extremists trying to recruit them into violence.

Looking over our footage from the 6th with my colleague Ford Fischer, one group keeps appearing, close to the front, at the tipping points where the day turned: the Proud Boys.

FORD FISCHER:

So at the previous two Million MAGA Marches, there were probably about a thousand Proud Boys—

A.C. THOMPSON:

Yeah, there were a lot—

FORD FISCHER:

—at each of them—

A.C. THOMPSON:

—and they were all wearing black and yellow.

FORD FISCHER:

—wearing pretty much identical black and yellow. On Jan. 6, it's quite different. They had specifically said that they were going to come wearing all black.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Even without their uniforms, I recognize Ethan Nordean, a Proud Boy I’d seen in Portland years ago. He’s pleaded not guilty to charges related to Jan. 6.

The Proud Boy seen breaking the window, identified by the FBI as Dominic Pezzola, has also pleaded not guilty for his role in the attack.

I used to see Proud Boys march with Thin Blue Line flags, but now they’re charged with participating in a riot that had killed a police officer.

So we go to these rallies and the Proud Boys say, "We love the police. We back the blue, blue lives matter." But that changed. That changed on Jan. 6, and suddenly they are at war with the police.

FORD FISCHER:

I think sort of a transition from supporting the government to believing that the incoming government is illegitimate.

MALE PROTESTER:

Whose streets?

CROWD [chanting]:

Our streets!

A.C. THOMPSON:

The Proud Boys appeared to be the largest organized group involved in the insurrection, but another pattern jumps out from the footage: men and women in military-style combat gear. At least 40 of the rioters charged for the 6th were military veterans or current members of the armed forces.

Extremists within the military. It’s the problem I’d long been tracking. But the government had always downplayed the scale of it.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

President-elect Joe Biden today denounced the rioters who stormed the Capitol and blamed President Trump for—

A.C. THOMPSON:

The new administration says it's taking the threat more seriously—

MALE NEWSREADER:

Domestic violent extremism is one of the number one threats to this country.

A.C. THOMPSON:

—with vows to make it a top priority.

MALE NEWSREADER:

—to study the urgent threat of—

A.C. THOMPSON:

But I’ve heard language like this in the past.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

—people arrested were active military personnel—

A.C. THOMPSON:

I wonder if this time will be different.

MALE NEWSREADER:

—people are not going to suddenly stop being—

A.C. THOMPSON:

And some of the signs are encouraging.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

—has ordered a militarywide stand down to root out extremism within its ranks after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

A.C. THOMPSON:

The man heading the DOD’s effort on extremism in the ranks agrees to talk to me.

BISHOP GARRISON, Sr. Adviser, Secretary of Defense:

We know that it is a problem. It is absolutely a problem. It's a disturbing problem, and it's one that we're going to address. We're going to understand what the—

A.C. THOMPSON:

The Pentagon had always assured me that they had the issue under control. Jan. 6 seems to have changed that.

BISHOP GARRISON:

You're a reporter. You've looked at the data. We know that veterans in America make up a small percentage of the overall population, definitely much less than 10%. But when you look at the number of the those individuals charged, we see that there was an outsized representation of that veteran population in that space. So we need to understand what happened. We need to do deep dives into the data to get a greater understanding of why this took place, why this happened.

A.C. THOMPSON:

In the past when I would ask the military branches, the Pentagon about this question, people didn't want to answer it honestly.

BISHOP GARRISON:

Well, I don't want to speak to what's happened in the past. I can just tell you that Secretary Austin, that President Biden, that this administration sees this as a top priority. We're going to do everything we can to address it.

A.C. THOMPSON:

It seems like there’s a shift A few years ago, I was seeing guys who were affiliated with the neo-Nazi movements, the white supremacist movements. More recently, what I seem to be seeing are guys that identify with anti-government groups, with militia groups. Have you seen that shift as well in your work?

BISHOP GARRISON:

Well, I'll tell you. As society shifts and evolves, so too do the nature of the threats. So we're trying to get a good handle on what we're actually facing so we can make the right type of recommendations and process in order to address it.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Two weeks after Jan. 6, with authorities bearing down on extremist groups, Boogaloo Bois stage rallies around the country.

In Michigan, they return to the state Capitol, and I recognize Boogaloo Bois who took part in the siege here back in April.

In Virginia, Mike Dunn marches again.

MIKE DUNN:

All we do repeatedly is get tread on. Well today we're not getting tread on. It's not about Trump. It's not about MAGA. It's not about Democrats, it's not about Republicans. It's about me and my Bois right here standing together and saying, "We're done. We're not going to comply." The only answer to solving our issue is armed revolt.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But despite his bravado, this might be the last time he leads Boogaloo Bois in public. After this rally, he changes his phone number and vanishes from social media. In our last conversation he tells me the struggle is entering a new phase and he needs to disappear.

Law enforcement is continuing to make arrests. They charge four more people in connection to the Boogaloo-related murder case against Steven Carrillo. According to the FBI, the group had been discussing tactics for killing police.

The Proud Boys are here, too. But their numbers are small.

After the Capitol siege and Proud Boys getting arrested for that, for breaching the Capitol. There were dozens of Proud Boys there who were helping to orchestrate the breach. Do you want an insurrection to overturn the election?

PROUD BOY:

We want a patriotic party. We want a patriotic party that puts America first.

A.C. THOMPSON:

You guys were never looking for trouble in D.C.? Or anywhere?

PROUD BOY:

We don't look for no problems at all.

A.C. THOMPSON:

But everywhere I go there's fights with the Proud Boys and other people. I've been in D.C. with you guys. You were looking for fights. You were looking for people—

PROUD BOY:

No we weren't. I've been to every single D.C. protest—

A.C. THOMPSON:

You don't think so?

PROUD BOY:

No. I know for a fact, no.

PROUD BOY 2:

I've been to two out of the three. We've been there on the ground.

A.C. THOMPSON:

And so the Black Lives Matter signs that got torn down—

PROUD BOY:

That has nothing to do with us.

A.C. THOMPSON:

Had nothing to do—except it was—Proud Boys were part of that group.

I had reached the end of a trail that began in Charlottesville, where I had seen up close the peril posed by a resurgent white supremacist movement.

In the months leading up to Jan. 6, what I saw was different: armed militias pledging to execute police and elected officials; ultranationalists brawling in the streets with their perceived enemies; would-be revolutionaries wearing Hawaiian shirts; and millions of people convinced the 2020 election was a fraud, some of them angry enough to attack the U.S. Capitol.

After covering these movements, it’s clear: They’ve been part of the American scene for decades, constantly evolving—and the threat is not going away.

55m
2107_TN_01_CLEAN
In Search of Al Qaeda
FRONTLINE follows the trail of Al Qaeda fighters — from the borderlands of Pakistan, across the Gulf of Oman, to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
November 21, 2002