Jason Kenneth Hamilton, the man responsible for the deadly shooting spree in Moscow, Idaho, was a card-carrying Aryan Nations member licensed by the federal government to possess fully automatic weapons, including a military-style machine gun, sources confirmed Tuesday.
“How he got one, I have no idea,” Latah County Sheriff Wayne Rausch said Tuesday of Hamilton’s license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Rausch confirmed that Hamilton also had a concealed weapons permit in Latah County, despite a domestic violence conviction that should have barred him from owning guns.
The 36-year-old janitor moved to North Idaho from the Boise area in 1998 or 1999, and shortly thereafter became a member of the Aryan Nations, which was based near Hayden.
About that same time, Hamilton was arrested in Latah County for shooting at a building or a car, but the charge was reduced through a plea bargain, incomplete court records show.
Hamilton committed suicide in a Presbyterian church after killing his wife, a police officer and a church sexton and wounding three other men Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Law enforcement authorities confirmed Tuesday that Hamilton was a member of the Aryan Nations.
“He never really hit on our radar,” one source said of Hamilton’s involvement with the white supremacy group that was closely monitored during the quarter-century it was headquartered in North Idaho.
“We don’t think he’s been particularly active, but he’s been a dues-paying member since 2000,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.
Hamilton’s ties to the Aryan Nations were found when FBI agents and Latah County sheriff’s deputies searched his home in Moscow, sources told The Spokesman-Review.
Authorities found an Aryan Nations membership card and an Aryan Nations flag that belonged to Hamilton in his house on Juliene Way on the outskirts of Moscow, the sources said.
Investigators believe the Aryan Nations material belonged to Hamilton and not his wife, who was found dead in the home. A single round from a .308-caliber rifle – the same caliber as the M-1 military-type rifle Hamilton was carrying – was responsible for the woman’s death, a source said.
Hamilton has been a dues-paying member of the Aryan Nations since four years before the death of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler at his Hayden home. The Aryan Nations headquarters was moved to Alabama after Butler’s death, and white supremacy activities, including an annual parade in Coeur d’Alene, largely subsided in North Idaho.
Hamilton had an extensive criminal history in Idaho, Arizona, California and Oklahoma, including arrests for violent crimes, domestic battery and drugs, according to court records obtained Tuesday by The Spokesman-Review.
Court records indicate the high school dropout, who received a GED from the University of Idaho about seven years ago, was first arrested in California on a domestic violence charge soon after his 21st birthday.
Hamilton’s first contact with Latah County authorities was in 1999, when he was charged with unlawful discharge of a firearm at a building or vehicle and two misdemeanor counts of disturbing the peace. An arrest report was not immediately available Tuesday, and Rausch said he was not familiar with the case. The court file no longer existed, a clerk said, but court records show he was placed on unsupervised probation for two years.
He was arrested in September 2005 for attempted strangulation of his on-again, off-again girlfriend. A jury convicted Hamilton of a reduced charge of misdemeanor domestic battery in June 2006.
As he was awaiting trial, he was arrested for allegedly grabbing another woman by the hands and throwing her to the floor, injuring her. The case was dismissed.
Prior to moving to Latah County, Hamilton was charged with felony aggravated assault in 1992 in Lake Havasu, Ariz., and placed on probation. He was charged a few months later with possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license; both charges were dismissed.
Hamilton was arrested in 1995 by the Tulsa, Okla., police on a cruelty to animals charge that was reduced to malicious injury. He was sentenced to a year in jail, but the sentence was suspended.
In 1996, he was arrested by the Boise Police Department for marijuana possession and failure to have current insurance. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $251.50 in court costs and fines and complete 16 hours of drug treatment. Hamilton, who was living in Kuna, Idaho, paid his fines in two monthly payments while working for a Meridian pizza parlor.
A new life for Crystal
It’s unclear when Hamilton married Crystal Dawn Jones. Together, they moved from the Kuna area to Latah County.
Crystal Hamilton recently had launched a new chapter in her life. Just weeks before her murder, she started a part-time job assisting with fiscal record-keeping at the Washington State University Edward R. Murrow School of Communication – even as she continued her custodial job at the Latah County Courthouse.
“She was trying to build a promising future for herself by building office skills and creating abilities that would give her more options in life,” said Erica Austin, the school’s interim director.
Austin said Hamilton made a big impact in her short time working at the school.
“When she was in the office working with me she was really focused on the work. She was cheerful and dedicated,” Austin said.
Hamilton had several pets, including a dog, cat, birds and fresh- and saltwater fish. All have been taken on by a friend and co-worker at the communication school. Employees there are taking up a collection to help pay for the animals’ upkeep and have opened an account at the Washington State Employees Credit Union for the purpose.
The school is offering counseling to any of its students or employees who might need help dealing with the shooting and its aftermath.
Austin said she and others at the office didn’t realize Hamilton was having problems with her husband.
“It’s heartbreaking to think that there might have been something we could have done had we known,” she said.
The Latah County Courthouse, the initial building targeted during the weekend shooting rampage, reopened for business Tuesday morning. Bullet holes scar the outer brick walls, windows and walls inside the building.
Many of the employees who returned to work Tuesday had red-rimmed eyes, Rausch said.
“It takes a while for the emotional baggage to go away,” he said.
The sheriff said the staff first returned to the building Monday evening. As the temperature outside dropped, glass in one of the damaged windows fell out and crashed to the ground.
“Two dispatchers hit the floor, screaming,” Rausch said. “Another ran off. It sounded like incoming again.”
Looking for patterns
Extremist shootings tend to fall into one of two categories: suspects who target individuals because of their ethnicity or religion, and those who want to make an anti-government statement, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League.
Former Aryan Nations security guard Buford Furrow, who went on a shooting spree in Los Angeles in 1999, was an example of a gunman who targeted specific victims, Pitcavage said.
Furrow was arrested for killing an Asian postal carrier and firing an assault rifle in a Jewish day care center in Los Angeles.
Police officers and government buildings frequently are targets of those driven by an anti-government agenda.
Pitcavage cited the case of Carl Drega, a New Hampshire extremist who became upset about a zoning issue and killed two state troopers, a judge and a newspaper editor before dying in a shootout with police in Vermont.
The Latah County Courthouse and police dispatch center in Moscow were the targets of some of Hamilton’s bullets, but Pitcavage said he didn’t know enough to speculate if an anti-government agenda motivated the shooter.
“I don’t have all the details on the incident,” he said. “When the news first came out, I was thinking that was a possible.
“But killing his wife first doesn’t really fit into this pattern,” he said.
“It might not have anything to do with an anti-government ideology, and might have to do more with his personal situation,” Pitcavage said.