Federal prosecutors in Virginia have arrested and charged a former white supremacist leader for maliciously reporting fake, violent threats to the police, prompting them to forcibly respond to the unsuspecting third party.
John Cameron Denton used the technique, known as “swatting,” to harass at least five targets in 2018 and 2019, including a university, a historically Black church, and an unnamed “cabinet official” living in northern Virginia.
In an unrelated incident in 2017, a swatting call led to the shooting death of an innocent man.
Authorities allege Denton also swatted the New York offices of ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom, and a journalist who worked there. Denton reportedly targeted the outlet and its staff in retaliation after it publicly identified him as a leader of Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi group.
“During the investigation, Denton unknowingly met with an undercover law enforcement officer and allegedly told the undercover officer about his role in the swatting conspiracy,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a release Wednesday.
“Denton allegedly stated that he used a voice changer when he made swatting calls, and allegedly admitted that he swatted the offices of ProPublica and the investigative journalist. He also allegedly stated that it would be good if he was ‘raided’ for the swatting because it would be viewed as a top tier crime, and he felt that his arrest could benefit Atomwaffen Division.”
The 26-year-old Montgomery, Texas, man, is accused of conspiring with another white supremacist named John William Kirby Kelley, 19, to carry out the attacks. Kelley was arrested and charged last month.
In addition to Denton, federal officers also arrested and charged four other suspected Atomwaffen members Wednesday, labeling them “racially motivated violent extremists [who targeted] journalists and activists.”
The additional defendants include: Cameron Brandon Shea, 24, of Redmond, Washington; Kaleb Cole, 24, of Montgomery, Texas; Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, 20, of Spring Hill, Florida; and Johnny Roman Garza, 20, of Queen Creek, Arizona.
“These defendants from across the country allegedly conspired on the internet to intimidate journalists and activists with whom they disagreed,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a release announcing the arrests. “This is not how America works. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this type of behavior.”
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