LAS VEGAS (AP) — Three men that prosecutors say have ties to an anti-government movement and tried to spark violence during recent Las Vegas protests pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal explosives and firearm charges.
Prosecutors allege that the Nevada men have ties to the right-wing extremist “boogaloo” movement, an internet-based network expressing support for overthrowing the U.S. government.
According to the court documents, prosecutors believe the men hoped to create civic unrest by capitalizing on protests over businesses closed due to the coronavirus and more recently, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
They were arrested May 30 on their way to a downtown Las Vegas Black Lives Matter protest over Floyd’s death while allegedly preparing gasoline-and-glass-bottle Molotov cocktails.
A federal judge on Wednesday set an Aug. 24 trial date for Andrew T. Lynam Jr., 23, Stephen T. Parshall, 36, and William L. Loomis, 40.
They also each face terrorism and explosives charges in state court stemming from the same investigation. They have not yet entered a plea to those counts but are due back in state court next week.
Defense attorneys have questioned the FBI’s reliance on a confidential informant to make the allegations. Federal prosecutors say they have audio and video recordings to back up much of the information from the informant.
According to court documents, the men discussed plans to firebomb a power station or federal property including a fee station at Lake Mead near the Hoover Dam or a U.S. Forest Service ranger station. The discussions included plans to try to incite chaos and possibly a riot, according to charging documents.
The anti-government “boogaloo” movement is a loose network of gun enthusiasts who often express support for overthrowing the U.S. government. Its name, a reference to a 1984 movie sequel called “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” is a code word for a second civil war.
The movement is rooted in online meme culture, but the coronavirus pandemic has become a catalyst for real-world activity. Many “boogaloo” followers have shown up at COVID-19 lockdown protests armed with rifles and wearing tactical vests over Hawaiian shirts and leis, a nod to the “big luau” derivation of the movement’s name.
Federal investigators say an Air Force sergeant who has been charged with fatally shooting a federal security officer and wounding his partner outside a California courthouse during a protest over Floyd’s death also had ties to the “boogaloo” movement.