LAS VEGAS (AP) — Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.
Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus and later sought to capitalize on protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
The three men were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest in downtown Las Vegas after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by The Associated Press.
“People have a right to peacefully protest. These men are agitators and instigators. Their point was to hijack the protests into violence,” Nicholas Trutanich, U.S. attorney in Nevada, told AP. He referred to what he called “real and legitimate outrage” over Floyd’s death.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday said they self-identified as part of the “boogaloo” movement, which U.S. prosecutors said in the document is “a term used by extremists to signify coming civil war and/or fall of civilization.”
Stephen T. Parshall, 35, Andrew T. Lynam Jr., 23, and William L. Loomis, 40, were being held on $1 million bond each in the Clark County jail Wednesday, according to court records.
Each currently faces two federal charges — conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive, and possession of unregistered firearms. In state court, they’ve been accused of felony conspiracy, terrorism and explosives possession.
Attorney Monte Levy, representing Loomis, declined to comment about the state case and did not immediately respond to a question about whether she’ll represent Loomis in federal court.
A deputy public defender representing Parshall declined to comment and an attorney appointed to represent Lynam did not immediately respond to messages.
The complaint said Lynam is an Army reservist, with Parshall formerly enlisted in the Navy and Loomis formerly enlisted in the Air Force.
A confidential informant met Lynam and Parshall at an early April rally in Las Vegas calling for the reopening of the state’s economy, the federal complaint said. The men were carrying firearms and during the rally, Lynam said the group “was not for joking around and that it was for people who wanted to violently overthrow the United States government,” according to the complaint.
The informant said that during a May 27 meeting, Parshall and Loomis “discussed causing an incident to incite chaos and possibly a riot, in response to the death of a suspect (referring to George Floyd) in police custody in Minneapolis.”
“Loomis stated he wanted to target a power substation and wanted to throw a type of ‘firebomb’ or incendiary to cause destruction,” the complaint said.
However, on May 28, Lynam instructed the group to observe the riots occurring throughout the country and use that momentum as a driving force to possibly take action against the Lake Mead Fee Station, federal land north of the Hoover Dam, on May 30.
The informant stated that Parshall and Loomis’ “idea behind the explosion was to hopefully create civil unrest and rioting throughout Las Vegas.”
“They wanted to use the momentum of the George Floyd death in police custody in the city of Minneapolis to hopefully stir enough confusion and excitement, that others see the explosions and police presence and begin to riot in the streets out of anger,” the complaint said.
On May 28, FBI agents observed Parshall buy fireworks at Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza. The next day Parshall indicated to the informant that he had glass bottles, rags and gasoline Molotov cocktails, the complaint said.
On May 30, all three and the informant agreed to take part in the Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Las Vegas, the complaint said.
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.
While some “boogaloo” promoters insist they aren’t genuinely advocating for violence, law-enforcement officials say they have foiled bombing and shooting plots by people who have connections to the movement or at least used its terminology.
A 36-year-old Arkansas man whose Facebook page included “boogaloo” references was arrested on April 11 by police in Texarkana, Texas, on a charge he threatened to ambush and kill a police officer on a Facebook Live video.
In March, a Missouri man with ties to neo-Nazis was shot and killed when FBI agents tried to arrest him. Timothy Wilson, 36, was planning to bomb a hospital in the Kansas City area on the day that a COVID-19 stay-at-home order was scheduled to take effect, authorities said. Wilson told an undercover FBI agent that his goal was “to kick start a revolution” and referred to his plans as “operation boogaloo,” according to an agent’s affidavit.
Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report. Sonner reported form Reno.