An alleged white supremacist in Texas was arrested Wednesday in connection with a conspiracy to conduct so-called "swatting" incidents in Virginia and elsewhere.
The U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria said that John Cameron Denton, 26, of Montgomery, Texas, the alleged former leader of the Atomwaffen Division, will make his first appearance in federal court in Houston at 2 p.m.
Swatting involves tricking emergency services dispatchers into believing that someone is in imminent danger of death or bodily harm, causing the dispatchers to send police and emergency services to an unwitting third party’s address.
"The conspirators conducted hundreds of swatting calls across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom," according to an FBI affidavit.
From November 2018 to at least April 2019, Denton and several co-conspirators, including John William Kirby Kelley, allegedly conspired to conduct swatting calls, according to a 49-page affidavit from an FBI agent and other court documents.
Kelley, 19, a former student said to have attended Old Dominion University, was charged in federal court last month with conspiracy to make threats. He allegedly reported a fake bomb threat at Old Dominion University and was linked to a similar bomb threat at a historically black church in Alexandria.
In the Old Dominion incident on Nov. 29, 2018, a caller to the campus police said they were armed with an AR-15 and had placed "multiple pipe bombs within the campus buildings."
In response, the Virginia State Police and the Norfolk Police Department were contacted by campus police. The Norfolk police SWAT team was placed on standby.
"ODU was closed and professors were not allowed to return to the school. There was a shelter in place issued for students on campus and students were not allowed to leave their dorms except to visit the dining facilities. Law enforcement searched and cleared every building on the ODU campus," says the affidavit.
According to court documents, Denton allegedly conspired in connection with three bomb-threat swatting calls that victimized a former, unidentified U.S. cabinet official living in Northern Virginia on Jan. 27, 2019; Old Dominion University on Nov. 29, 2018; and Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria on Nov. 3, 2018.
In the case of the cabinet official, someone called the Alexandria Police Department at 2:44 a.m. and "stated he had an AR-15, had shot and killed his girlfriend, had her two children tied up in the laundry room and he would kill them if he did not speak to the hostage negotiator, and that he had a pipe bomb that he would detonate."
The Secret Service, which was protecting the cabinet official, was quickly able to tell police that the events had not taken place.
Denton is also accused of targeting the New York City office of ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism and a journalist who produced materials for ProPublica.
"Denton allegedly chose the two targets because he was furious with ProPublica and the investigative journalist for publishing his true identity and discussing his role in Atomwaffen Division," according to the U.S. attorney's office.
"Denton expressed hatred for specific journalists and media outlets whose articles discussed white supremacist groups and individuals associated with the groups," the FBI affidavit said. "Denton expressed frustration about how neo-Nazis were being portrayed."
The New York City office of ProPublica was swatted on Dec. 14, 2018. A caller, who identified himself as James Mason, told the New York Police Department that he was affiliated with Atomwaffen Divsion, that he had multiple pipe bombs, an AR-15, one hostage and a dead body. The caller threatened to shoot at police when they arrived, said the FBI affidavit.
Authorities said that during their investigation, Denton unknowingly met with an undercover FBI agent and allegedly told the agent about his role in the swatting conspiracy.
Denton allegedly said he used a voice changer when he made the calls and admitted that he swatted the offices of ProPublica and the journalist.
Denton also allegedly said 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.
He is charged with conspiracy to commit interstate threats to injure. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.