Violence Emanates from the Radical Right
Less than a month after a right-wing extremist allegedly shot to death three police officers in Pittsburgh, a National Guard soldier whose wife said he was "severely disturbed" by the election of Barack Obama killed two Okaloosa County, Fla., sheriff's deputies in a shootout. The April 25 double murder marked yet another deadly incident in a nationwide flurry of right-wing extremist violence and plots in the months leading up to and following the election of the nation's first non-white president.
Okaloosa County Sheriff Edward Spooner said the two deputies, Warren "Skip" York and Burt Lopez, both 45-year-old fathers, were gunned down by Joshua Cartwright, 28, after they attempted to arrest him on domestic violence charges at a shooting range. Cartwright then fled the scene and led police on a high-speed chase that culminated in a raging firefight, during which Cartwright was himself shot to death by law enforcement officers.
Sheriff Spooner said that Cartwright was interested in militia groups and believed the U.S. government was conspiring against him.
Cartwright had that in common with the accused Pittsburgh cop killer, 22-year-old Richard Poplawski, who posted messages to various antigovernment conspiracy websites as well as white supremacist forums like Stormfront in the days before he allegedly donned a bulletproof vest and then ambushed and killed three officers with his AK-47. The deputies were killed as they responded to a domestic disturbance involving Poplawski and his mother.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. announced in April that he plans to seek the death penalty for Poplawski.
Meanwhile, more details have emerged about a neo-Nazi whose wife shot him to death last December as he was apparently preparing to build a radioactive "dirty bomb." Investigators found a cache of radioactive materials and detailed instructions for making a dirty bomb in the Belfast, Maine, home of James G. Cummings II and his wife, Amber, who told police she killed her husband in self-defense after years of physical and mental abuse. Amber Cummings said her husband was a longtime neo-Nazi who began talking about carrying out a domestic terrorist attack after Obama was elected.
Two contractors who performed extensive work on the Cummings home last summer told investigators and reporters that Cummings talked incessantly about firearms and his fascination with Adolf Hitler. They also said he frequently ridiculed and insulted his wife.
House painter Mike Robbins said that Cummings walked around the house wearing a cowboy hat and a long black leather coat, even in hot weather, and that Cummings expressed reverence for Hitler and claimed to have an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia, including pieces of Hitler's personal silverware and place settings.
Cummings had more than enough money to acquire such a collection, not to mention expensive dirty bomb components. After his death, it came to light that he was the son of a well-known California real estate mogul and philanthropist who was murdered by a disgruntled former employee in 1997, leaving behind a trust fund that generates $10 million a year in interest alone.
New information also surfaced recently in the case of two racist skinheads who allegedly planned to go on a multi-state robbery and killing spree before attempting to assassinate then-Democratic presidential nominee Obama.
Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, were arrested last October and charged with conspiracy, unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun and threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a major presidential candidate, among other crimes.
According to recently released four-page written statements the skinheads gave to federal agents, Cowart was introduced to Schlesselman through a friend when he was trying to sell a rifle. "Our convo's [conversations] quickly came to talking about general racist stuff," Schlesselman stated. "As our trust grew we talked about more extremist type things like killing people. I talk about this shit all the time but talken [sic] to daniel [sic] it seemed like we could do it."
The two cruised around Bells, Ark., for a couple of days, plotting gun store robberies, chalking swastikas and other hate symbols onto Cowart's car, and shooting out the window of a black church. Gradually, their elaborate plot took shape. "Our intentions were to go from state to state on a killing spree and robbery," Cowart wrote. "Paul had mentioned killing a total of 88 people and beheading 14 of them. The final thing we had discussed was dressing in white tuxs [tuxedos] with a top hat and trying to assassinate Obama. We did not plan on living past that day. One day, while riding in my car, Paul told me that he wanted to go to a predominately [predominantly] black school and kill as many as he could." (The number 88 is neo-Nazi code for "Heil Hitler," and 14 refers to the "14 words," a white nationalist catchphrase coined by the late domestic terrorist David Lane.)
Cowart and Schlesselman were arrested after a friend of theirs informed the Secret Service of their intentions.
Unfortunately, nothing like that happened to avert a mass killing plot carried out last July by unemployed truck driver Jim David Adkisson, who opened fire in a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tenn., because, he said, it harbored gays and multiracial families. Armed with a shotgun, Adkisson killed two people and seriously wounded six before being tackled and held for police.
In March, law enforcement authorities released a suicide note that Adkisson, whose lawyer recently announced plans to enter a guilty plea, left in his car outside the church. In it, he describes the attack as "a hate crime," "a political protest" and "a symbolic killing."
"I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done," he concluded. "If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. Do something for your country before you go. Go kill liberals."