UPDATE: More information on the shooting has been included at the end of this post.
For prominent California neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall, non-whites, Jews, gays, immigrants and other purported undesirables had no place in a perfect world. In the end, police suspect, the gun that cut short his life Sunday was fired not by someone he hated, but by someone he presumably loved— his 10-year-old son.
Hall died early Sunday morning. Gunshots were reported at his home shortly after 4 a.m.
As of this morning, police in Riverside, Calif., had not yet said whether they believe the shooting of Hall, the California director and southwest regional leader of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), was accidental or deliberate. According to The New York Times, Hall’s son was “detained” and no other suspects were being sought. Hall was married with five young children.
The website of the NSM, which is currently the largest neo-Nazi group in America with 50 chapters in 32 states, described Hall’s death as a “murder,” although no explanation is offered. NSM “Commander” Jeff Schoep wrote: “Comrades, It is with great sorrow, and a heavy heart that I inform you of the loss of our Southwestern States Regional Director Jeff Hall. Today (May 1st, 2011), Jeff Hall was found murdered in his home in Riverside, California. … Jeff Hall was like a Brother to me. … We miss you. See you in Valhalla!”
The white nationalist community “suffered a body blow,” with Hall’s death, according to the white nationalist website White Reference.
Hall is the second prominent white supremacist leader to die violently this year. American Front founder David Lynch, 40, was found shot to death March 2 at his home in Citrus Heights, Calif., a Sacramento suburb. American Front is a nationwide skinhead coalition modeled after Britain’s racist National Front. Police still have not identified a suspect in Lynch’s murder, although a former associate, Charles “Charlie Boots” Demar, was arrested on other charges, and is considered a “person of interest” in the Lynch case.
Hall, 32, who advocated for a “white nation” and often led rallies of white supremacists giving stiff-armed Nazi salutes and waving swastika-adorned flags amid hundreds of angry counter-protesters, was considered something of a rising star in the neo-Nazi universe. He had organized racist rallies at a day-laborer center and local synagogues. He also made news last fall when he quietly submitted his name as a candidate for the Western Municipal Water District board of directors in Riverside County. He didn’t post campaign signs or attend a candidate forum. Although Hall is a plumber by trade, he listed no occupation on the ballot.
When the media determined that the candidate was, in fact, the Jeff Hall of the NSM, he didn’t recoil. “I want a white nation,” he told a reporter. “I don’t hide what I am, and I don’t want to water that down.” Hall was defeated by his opponent, receiving 27.8% (8,139 votes) of the 29,243 votes cast — not an overwhelming number, but more than one might expect a neo-Nazi to receive (most voters likely had no idea of his affiliation). Hall called the results “a major victory for American National Socialism.” He wrote, “It is a great victory when a National Socialist candidate receives over a quarter of the votes for an elected position in his district.”
According to the Times, Hall held monthly NSM chapter meetings at his home, one of which a reporter for the newspaper attended. In that meeting, Hall announced plans for a May “patrol” to watch for undocumented people illegally crossing the Mexican border in Arizona. “You guys get your Glocks cocked and get ready to rock,” Hall reportedly told chapter members. “We’re going to the border. That’s how we do it.”
Hall had participated in earlier armed forays to the border. In June 2010, Hall, fellow NSM member J.T. Ready, and about eight other people congregated in Arizona’s Vekol Valley. Hall said the goal of their operation was to “fight the [Mexican drug] cartels and reclaim the land.” Armed with pistols and high-powered rifles, the group led patrols through the desert and “secured” an abandoned building. They claimed to have apprehended three illegal immigrants attempting a border crossing, although that was not independently confirmed.
The NSM says that only heterosexual “pure-blood whites” should be allowed U.S. citizenship and that all non-whites should be deported, regardless of legal status. As Schoep put it: “The Constitution was written by white men alone. Therefore, it was intended for whites alone.” But the group worships not an American, but a German leader: Adolf Hitler, described as “Our Fuhrer, the beloved Holy Father of our age … a visionary in every respect.”
NSM has its roots in the original American Nazi Party, which was founded in 1959 by former Navy Cmdr. George Lincoln Rockwell. Seven years after Rockwell was murdered by one of his followers in 1967, two of his chief lieutenants, Robert Brannen and Cliff Herrington, formed the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement in St. Paul, Minn. Leadership passed in 1994 to Schoep, who gave the group its present name.
Due in part to a leadership vacuum created by the deaths of key American neo-Nazi leaders including William Pierce of the National Alliance, who died in 2002, and the Aryan Nations’ Richard Butler, who died in 2004, the NSM evolved into one of the largest neo-Nazi organizations in the country.
UPDATE: Riverside Police spokesman Lt. Ed Blevins around midday Monday said that Hall’s shooting “was an intentional act” and that one of Hall’s children has been “booked for investigation of murder,” according to the Associated Press. Blevins did not name the child, although earlier media reports indicated his 10-year-old son. Blevins said the motive for the shooting has not been determined, and that an autopsy was pending. The Riverside County coroner’s office in a press release said that Hall died of a single gunshot wound “fired by a known assailant.”