The White Wolves, a teenage gang from suburban Connecticut, at first seemed only capable of talk, though the volume of their white supremacist diatribes kept them in the headlines — and then the assaults and arrests began.
In February 2003, yet another white-power site popped up on the Web — this one announcing the advent of the White Wolves, a band of "Proud White Nationalist Skinheads in the State of Connecticut." Nobody took much notice.
And why should they? Sure, the snarling-wolf graphic on the home page was kind of cool, but the rhetoric on the site was mostly the same old, same old: "White Children should not be brought up in this hip-hop, homosexual, and DIEversity loving society," and so forth.
Sites like the Wolves' are a dime a dozen, often put up by solitary racialists hoping to make some connections — any connections — with the wider world of hate. There certainly seemed no reason to worry that the White Wolves, whoever they might be, would actually follow through with their promise to "make the attempt to reach out to every White Child out there."
But in just a few months' time, the White Wolves would have the pricey suburbs of southern Connecticut in a full-scale uproar. Stoked by publicity from news-starved local papers, this clique of about a dozen young trench-coat-wearers — most of them resentful products of the whitest, most blue-collar pockets of the 'burbs — quickly became the most infamous gang in Fairfield County.
Every protest, every assault, every public insult issued by a White Wolf seemed to make front-page headlines in the Milford Mirror, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post. The publicity made the White Wolves, especially their pack leader, 22-year-old Ken Zrallack Jr., the envy of publicity-seeking racialists everywhere.
It also extracted a price: by January of this year, the group would see three of its members and "affiliates" arrested, and one of them already behind bars.
Folks first took notice of the White Wolves in May, when their Web site announced plans to protest a "pro-faggot meeting" at the Stratford Public Library. Bridges, a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender group, was gathering to work on plans for a new community center.
The White Wolves showed out impressively, barging into the meeting room with a dozen protesters wielding signs declaring "homosexuality is a sin," "CT. will not turn gay," and "I want my kids to grow up in Stratford and not think of anal sex when they see a hot pink poster" (painted on a hot pink posterboard).
Seventeen-year-old Brian Staehly, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound center for the West Haven High School football team, stationed himself by the posters and glowered, an American flag wrapped like a cape around his massive shoulders. One Wolf brought a bullhorn, the better to shout down the "faggots."
When the cops showed up and started taking names, 18-year-old Matthew Zrallack, Ken's younger brother, tried to shove his way out of the room, but he ran into a detective who later reported that Zrallack "spun around and grabbed me by the throat."
Zrallack had already gained a measure of local notoriety by stiff-arming a Nazi salute on the cover of the 2002 Stratford High School yearbook. Now, as he was led away for booking, Zrallack kept his wits about him enough to yell back at David Cappiello, president of Bridges: "We don't want your kind around here, bitch!"
Ganging Up With Grown-Ups
The library ruckus — and the headlines it prompted — only seemed to fire up the Wolves, who started to connect with the larger hate movement. In August, brimful of newcomers' enthusiasm, seven of them made a 15-hour pilgrimage to Osceola, Ind., for an annual Klan gathering known as White Pride Fest.
"We knew we had a long ride ahead but we could care less," Ken Zrallack later reported online. "For the whole ride we were in uniform for each bathroom, food and gas stop. We wore our black cargo pants, red laced boots and our CT White Wolves shirts."
Veteran Klan and neo-Nazi activists welcomed the gung-ho Skinheads heartily, and the Wolves joined in one-on-one, bare-fisted "sparring matches" and an old-fashioned cross-lighting.
"I couldn't believe it," Zrallack wrote. "I grabbed the torch and was ready. ... Saluting the cross then walking towards it and lighting the way for Christ was amazing."
"Because of him we are now part of an elite force," cheered Zrallack, who soon became White Revolution's official contact person in Connecticut.
The first Friday in October, a handful of Wolves drove down to Liberty State Park in New Jersey, where they joined a neo-Nazi protest of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. Sporting White Revolution t-shirts, the Wolves listened to fiery anti-immigrant speeches, posed for TV cameras with practiced snarls on their faces, and wielded signs with slogans like "We Won't Trade Our Borders For Landscapers."
Back home in Connecticut, the new school year brought new ways to stir trouble. Outside a hopping house party in Trumbull, about 20 Wolves and their friends surrounded a car containing two African-American teenagers trying to leave the festivities. As the car's white driver attempted to maneuver away from the threats and "hateful slurs" being shouted at her friends, Staehly used one massive forearm to smash out the back window.
Police arrived quickly and arrested Staehly. The police report noted that he was carrying a card from the neo-Nazi National Alliance, that he'd chucked his swastika T-shirt into a friend's truck bed before the cops showed up, and that his left arm bore a "Kill" tattoo.
West Haven High had just lost part of its offensive line.
Flirting With Fame
By now, alarm bells were sounding all around the suburbs. The Stratford town council passed a resolution condemning hate. Concerned Milford citizens formed an Anti-Hate Task Force, asking residents to sign a "Declaration of Tolerance." An NAACP official declared the Wolves "evil." Milford's mayor called them "idiots."
Rumors flew around local schools, especially after a depressed African-American teenager hung himself — had the White Wolves lynched him?
"They scare people easy," said a senior at Stratford High who asked not to be named because "I don't want to get all beaten up before prom."
Meanwhile, the newspapers covered every activity, every rumor, every suspected incident: "FBI probes bias attack in Trumbull," "Attack victim relives horror," "Schools fearing Wolves' inroads," "Cops: Leader of White Wolves insults overweight girl at diner."
"Every time they breathed, there was a story," said the Rev. Paige Besse-Rankin, a leader in Milford's anti-hate task force. Even when the Wolves did nothing at all, it was news.
"White Wolves recruiters off duty for Halloween," a Post headline informed readers on Nov. 1.
The flames were fanned later in November, when 18-year-old White Wolf Roy Watanabe was arrested for doing exactly what local parents feared most: He'd brutally attacked a 15-year-old boy, allegedly because he refused to join the Wolves. Police said Watanabe shoved the boy to the ground and booted him in the mouth and leg.
"The poor boy was just riding his bike," a neighbor who saw the attack told the Post. Needless to say, rumors about "White Wolf recruiters" did not subside.
But the headlines started to drop away late last year, with three of the group's alleged principals in hot water and pack leader Ken Zrallack under serious scrutiny from the law. In January, Matt Zrallack got a six-month sentence and three years' probation for assault and breach of peace at the Stratford Library.
In February, the Wolves were briefly back in the news, suspected of distributing White Revolution's mock Black History Month fliers, featuring O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant as "examples of black achievement."
The relative lull gave folks in southern Connecticut time to sit back, take a deep breath and wonder: Were the White Wolves destined to become extinct as quickly as they'd become notorious, or were they simply hibernating till their legal scuffles blow over?