MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two Missouri militia members who authorities say traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with a cache of guns to see President Donald Trump’s visit in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake are facing federal firearms charges, the U.S. attorney’s office in Milwaukee said.
The FBI arrested Michael Karmo and Cody Smith at a hotel in Pleasant Prairie, about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from Kenosha, on Tuesday, the same day that Trump visited the area to tour businesses that were damaged amid unrest that followed the Aug. 23 shooting of Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. The agents found an AR-15-style rifle, a shotgun, two handguns, ammunition and other tactical gear, according to a criminal complaint.
Both men had criminal records that meant they could not legally possess firearms, according to federal prosecutors.
Federal investigators said Smith and Karmo, who were roommates, drove from Hartville, Missouri, for Trump’s visit and to see the damage in Kenosha. Karmo told investigators that they worked together and were a part of a Missouri militia.
According to the criminal complaint, the two men attended a rally for Trump supporters outside a Kenosha high school, leaving two handguns locked in the glove compartment of their vehicle. After the rally, the men went back to their hotel, with plans to return to Kenosha that night, but FBI agents stopped them, the complaint says.
The FBI was alerted to the men by an Iowa law enforcement agency that passed along a tip from an acquaintance of the men. The acquaintance said the men were traveling to Kenosha with guns to steal from businesses and possibly “pick people off,” according to a criminal complaint.
Karmo has felony convictions in California, and Smith has a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction in California, according to the criminal complaint.
Both men are being held in federal custody. Karmo is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Smith faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the three charges against him: aiding and abetting Karmo, possessing a firearm unlawfully and possessing a firearm while using illegal drugs.
Karmo told investigators the men also planned to go to Portland, Oregon, where protests have erupted daily since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May after an officer pressed a knee into the Black man’s neck for nearly eight minutes.