LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Department of Homeland Security predicted back in the spring that the summer of 2020 could be a violent time because of the rapid rise of domestic extremists on the right and left.
One group being watched by federal and local law enforcement is the “Boogaloo Boys”, a loose confederation of armed anarchists who allegedly want to spark a new civil war.
The year 2020 has seen a perfect storm of simultaneous crises: a deadly pandemic, social isolation, high unemployment and massive demonstrations in the streets and at state capitals.
For domestic terrorists, it’s like Christmas in July. For law enforcement, not so much.
“The No. 1 threat to our cops on the street right now, I believe is in that domestic terrorism realm, and again, the extreme political ends, the extreme political ends of the spectrum, the left and the right,” said Metro Homeland Security Sgt. Ashton Packe.
To Packe, domestic terrorism is no longer a potential threat. It’s here.
The 2014 powder keg confrontations between police and militia groups at the Bundy Ranch was just a preview. That showdown came close to exploding several times but ended without bloodshed. That is, until a pair of troubled misfits from that standoff murdered two Metro officers.
A more recent case suggests domestic extremists are more radicalized than ever, and they see current turmoil as a golden opportunity.
“While the recent arrest locally is obviously very serious charges, it is an ongoing investigation. So, I’m not really at liberty to discuss it in details,” Packe explained. “It was a joint operation between the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Las Vegas Metro counterterrorism section. But the threat is obviously there. “
The three suspects, all Las Vegas men who consider themselves part of the so-called Boogaloo Boys’ Nevada chapter, were arrested as they were preparing violent attacks at a May 30 demonstration downtown.
Testimony given by an undercover operative to a grand jury outlined their chilling conspiracy to firebomb the demonstration, target police officers and incite further violence.
Their ultimate aim? To start a second civil war and to bring down the US Government.
“They had cased some of the sites, they had plans drawn up, they were going to bomb the power station, thinking that that would cause disarray here in the community, especially in the minority community, and people would turn out in anger” revealed Rep. Dina Titus. “They think it’s going be another civil war.”
Titus, who has been on the receiving end of death threats from extremists, says federal agencies have documented a notable uptick in violent plots by the Boogaloo Boys and other groups spawned in dark corners of the internet. This includes multiple attempts by right-wing groups to incite violence by posing as left-wing Antifa agitators.
In the San Francisco Bay area, an active duty military man has been charged with the murder of a federal officer during a Black Lives Matter protest and then shooting and killing a police officer who came to arrest him.
Titus is alarmed that so many different militia groups have taken very public roles at several protests organized to demand the reopening of Nevada businesses.
“And at some of the rallies, you know, these people turn up wearing weapons or wearing the traditional Hawaiian shirt that kind of helps them identify each other, but just carrying all kinds of weapons of war, even to intimidate people and kind of recruit for their own group,” the congresswoman said.
Social isolation caused by the pandemic is a petri dish for the online recruitment and radicalization of angry people on both ends of the political spectrum, experts say.
It’s likely to build a crescendo as the November election draws near.
Metro Police say they’ve worked hard to keep open communications with many of the militia groups following the Bundy Ranch showdown six years ago. That communication may have helped in uncovering the recent Boogaloo plot.