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Suspected neo-Nazi with ties to Washington state faces federal gun charge after arrest in Texas

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 15, 2019

By Christine Clarridge The Seattle Times

A suspected neo-Nazi with ties to Washington state is facing a federal gun charge after being arrested in Texas earlier this month.

When they were stopped for speeding Nov. 4, Aidan Bruce-Umbaugh and Kaleb Cole were wearing tactical gear and had a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, an AR-15 rifle, two AK-47 rifles, at least 1,500 rounds of ammunition, and a small amount of marijuana and THC oil, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bruce-Umbaugh, 23, was in the passenger seat and said the guns and drugs belonged to him. He was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury, charged with possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

Both men are believed to have connections to a neo-Nazi hate group called the Atomwaffen Division, according to a Thursday news release from Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.

A group called the Feuerkrieg Division (FKD), an offshot of the Atomwaffen, recently took credit for posting racist flyers outside a church in north Spokane.

The FBI and other investigators around the country have been working to crack down on members of Atomwaffen, which has been linked to a series of killings, according to the New York Times.

Bruce-Umbaugh “avoided eye contact and limited conversation” with law enforcement during the traffic stop and initially denied having anything illegal inside the vehicle, according to the criminal complaint as cited by the DOJ.

Neither he nor Cole, who was driving, is legally allowed to possess firearms. Cole’s cache of weapons in Snohomish County was seized last month by Seattle authorities, who accused him of “preparing for a race war.” The FBI in Seattle had sought a civil extreme risk protection order against Cole over the summer to require him to surrender his guns, KING-TV reports. Bruce-Umbaugh and Cole also have previous addresses in Whatcom County, records show.

Officials seized the firearms using a so-called red-flag law, which in a number of states including Washington allows law enforcement or civilians to get a court order to confiscate weapons when there is evidence that people are at high risk of harming themselves or others. Wyatt said the law provided a temporary intervention, allowing the seizure of the guns for up to a year.

At the end of 2018, Cole went on a 25-day trip that took him throughout Eastern Europe, according to the records filed by Seattle officials. He told federal officials who stopped him on his way home that the main reason was to see historical architecture and museums.

In a report filed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection about that day, officials wrote that Cole identified himself as an Atomwaffen member who had fascist ideology and that he had been carrying the group’s flag.

Federal officials also examined Cole’s cellphone, finding a recent image of a group of people performing Nazi salutes while holding the Atomwaffen flag, and another of two people standing on the railroad tracks leading into the complex that housed the Auschwitz concentration camp operated by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Seattle officials filed their petition on Sept. 26 and seized the guns from Cole in Snohomish County the same day, Wyatt said. He did not show up for a subsequent hearing. Cole could not be reached for comment Thursday and did not appear to have an attorney.

Wyatt said law enforcement officials have continued discussing what criminal laws might apply to Cole’s case. She said criminal statutes focus on threats made to an intended victim.

Federal investigators have also faced this issue as they struggle to balance First Amendment protections that allow hate speech and actions that could be an indicator of future violence. In some cases, the FBI has turned to local prosecutors to handle the cases.

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