SACRAMENTO, Calif .— Last December, hundreds of racist skinheads across the country received the very same Christmas card. It depicted a half-eaten cookie on a plate next to a bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon, a shot glass etched with a death's head, and stockings hung by the chimney with care.
SACRAMENTO, Calif .— Last December, hundreds of racist skinheads across the country received the very same Christmas card. It depicted a half-eaten cookie on a plate next to a bottle of Rebel Yell bourbon, a shot glass etched with a death's head, and stockings hung by the chimney with care. In the fireplace, as if descending from above, were two black combat boots with blood-red laces.
"Wishing You a Very SKINHEAD X-mas," the card read. It was signed, "The Lynch Family."
The card was from David Lynch, a clever and charismatic skinhead organizer whose history of racist activism dates back to the late 1980s, when Lynch became the eastern states coordinator for American Front, a nationwide skinhead coalition modeled after Britain's National Front. After American Front's power waned in the mid-1990s, Lynch lived for a time in Canada, then relocated to Sacramento, where he gradually assumed control of the Sacto Skins, one of the oldest skinhead gangs in the country.
While he maintained a strong presence in the Sacramento white supremacist subculture from the late 1990s through 2005, at one point meeting with then-National Alliance chairman William Pierce when the neo-Nazi leader visited Sacramento, Lynch for the most part limited his activities to that city alone.
Now, after nearly a decade of keeping a relatively low profile, Lynch, 36, is once again rapidly emerging as a major figure in the nationwide skinhead movement. Law enforcement sources report that Lynch is uniting skinhead crews in northern and southern California, Utah and Florida under the banner of a newly energized American Front. He has also recently established a United States division of Troops of Tomorrow, an international skinhead organization, and helped to launch Prison Skin, a prison outreach campaign to support and glorify incarcerated skinheads.
Lynch in the first era of American Front was a brash self-aggrandizer who boasted that his group was superior. He was also reckless, getting arrested repeatedly in the 1990s for such petty offenses as stealing beer and failing to pay a parking ticket. Twice, he was caught in a car full of weapons, including machetes, pistols and AK-47s, on his way to widely publicized white-power demonstrations.
That was the old Lynch.
The new Lynch is positioning himself as a pan-Aryan peacemaker, dedicated to uniting querulous skinhead crews and promoting the white supremacist movement above his own celebrity status. He's also avoiding busts for tacky street crimes.
"Lynch basically laid low for a while and got smarter," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Lt. Milo Fitch, who ran his department's gang unit from 1995 to 2002 and specialized in white-power gangs. "He was definitely a player in Sacramento [in the late 1990s], but he wasn't making the same kind of moves he is now. Lynch is a very bright guy. He's very organized and articulate. As he's gotten older, he's more carefully balancing wanting power with his fear of going to prison. His strategy now is to be more of the puppet master and less of the street soldier."
Bloody Pit Stop
Lynch had a busy month last December. Besides designing his Christmas card, he led a major skinhead rally outside a federal government building in Westwood, Calif., located in Los Angeles County, 400 miles south of his home turf.
Nearly 100 skinheads from crews in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah answered Lynch's call to join forces in publicly demanding the release from prison of the surviving members of The Order, an iconic 1980s white supremacist terrorist gang that murdered a Jewish talk show host in Denver and robbed some $4.1 million from armored cars. The Westwood rally was one of several loosely coordinated "Free The Order" protests held last Dec. 9 by racist skinheads in this country, Europe, and South America. It was also by far the largest.
The night before the L.A. rally, several members of the Berdoo Skins, a San Bernardino, Calif., white-power gang that claims allegiance to American Front, allegedly attacked a black man in the parking lot of a shopping mall in nearby Claremont. According to police, the skinheads stabbed the victim repeatedly, beat him to the ground, and then kicked him in the face.
"They were just stopping here to use the restroom [on their way to the "Free The Order" rally]," said Claremont Police Department Capt. Gary Jenkins. "They pulled off the freeway, and they just happened to be in Claremont. [There] just happened to be a black person that was in the same vicinity they were."
The victim was airlifted to a trauma center. He survived. Witnesses jotted down the license plate number of the skinheads' vehicle, which University of California, Los Angeles, campus police spotted the next day at the rally gathering point. Police detained about 20 skinheads, handcuffing them to a steel rail until a witness to the prior night's violence could be transported to the scene to identify the assailants. Five members of the Berdoo Skins, ranging in age from 17 to 28, were arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, with hate crime enhancements.
Lynch, who did not respond to five E-mails seeking comment for this report, was quick to capitalize on the propaganda value of the arrests.
"This was the largest White Power Skinhead demonstration ever in the state of California and the backlash is already being felt," Lynch wrote on the Sacto Skins website the week after the rally. "It is clear that the agents of ZOG [or Zionist Occupation Government, neo-Nazi shorthand for the federal government] are not happy to see all of us beginning to stand together as one. For far too long we have made it easy on our enemies by fighting and feuding among ourselves. No longer can the enemies of our Folk count on this advantage over us!! Over 15 different crews came together to support our Fallen Comrades from The Order. These same crews and organizations have banded together to support our Kinsmen arrested on their way to the rally. This is a new age."
Relaunching the Brand
Lynch resides in Citrus Heights, Calif., a Sacramento suburb. He maintains a well-paying job with a local environmental abatement firm that requires him to travel to New Orleans for post-Katrina clean-up contracts. According to law enforcement sources, Lynch makes frequent side trips to Florida to network with skinheads there, including Richie Myers, another former high-ranking official in American Front. Myers was the Florida state leader for American Front until 1991, when he was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to drown another American Front official, John Daly, after Lynch and Myers learned that Daly was secretly Jewish. Myers is now off parole and free of restrictions prohibiting contact with active white-power gang members.
"Lynch back then had a reputation for being a crazy fighter, somebody who would go at it with anyone, at any time, at any place, with no thought of the repercussions," Daly told the Intelligence Report. Daly said Lynch once ordered him to carve an American Front tattoo off the back of Lynch's ex-girlfriend's neck and mail Lynch the chunk of skin. Daly did not carry out the order and was nearly killed soon afterward.
"Obviously, he's mellowed somewhat, or he'd be in prison," Daly said. Fatherhood may have played some role in calming Lynch down. He has a young daughter, who lives with him and his wife in Citrus Heights. "Like most skinheads, Lynch came from a broken home, and he always said that no child of his would grow up without two parents in the house," Daly said. "Coming from a troubled home gives Lynch an understanding of the average skinhead and potential skinhead mindset. Having been there himself makes it easier for him to twist their minds."
Daly, who now lectures about his experiences in the skinhead movement, said he views the resurgence of the American Front as Lynch and Myers "relaunching a well-known skinhead brand name."
"It concerns me to see these guys back on the prowl, but it's not surprising, given the xenophobia in America. … Above all, Lynch and Myers are opportunists. If they sense the timing is right, they'll try to bring back American Front in a big way."
The key to their success, Daly said, will be successfully projecting an image to the new generation of skinheads of being the real deal, "and not just old men hanging onto their youth."
Another key to long-term success for Lynch may be keeping his predilection for methamphetamine under control. According to Daly, Lynch used American Front money to fund a speed habit in the late '80s, and Lt. Fitch told the Intelligence Report that in the late 1990s, Lynch was known to be a heavy meth user.
"We were pretty concerned when we found out he was meeting with [National Alliance leader] Pierce, but it turned out that Pierce distanced himself from Lynch pretty fast because Lynch was such a dope fiend, and Pierce didn't want anything to do with dope fiends."
Skinheads in Khaki
Myers isn't the only member of the old guard Lynch is hooking back up with. According to police in California, he's tightly connected to at least two former leaders of the Western Hammerskins who've been released from prison since 2002. But it's clear the new American Front is more than merely a gaggle of aging racists reliving their glory days. The majority of the skinheads at the "Free The Order" rally last December were in their late teens and 20s. The same is true of the skinheads who turned out for the five rallies in Sacramento organized by Lynch since last June, which drew members of the Sacto Skins and the Golden State Skins, another northern California crew tightly allied with American Front.
Not that Lynch discriminates by age. The American Front rallies in Sacramento also drew older neo-Nazis from the Sacramento unit of the now-defunct National Vanguard, many of whose members have since been absorbed into American Front, according to law enforcement sources.
Like many hate group leaders, Lynch is taking advantage of the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in America by casting his public demonstrations as "anti-illegal immigration rallies," a cause more widely acceptable than, say, the mass murder of Jews.
Four of the five American Front rallies in Sacramento in the past year were held outside Home Depot stores where Latino day laborers gather. For these rallies, the skinheads carried signs that read, "Stop the Illegal Invasion," and "Health care for illegal aliens costs Californians $1.4 billion a year." And they did not dress like skinheads. Instead they wore street clothes. Lynch even donned khakis and a button-down shirt.
"The only one of the five rallies they've had where they actually looked like skinheads to the average person passing by was a rally last year at the state Capitol," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Tim Curran. "They're being very strategic about taking advantage of the immigration issue, and they're very good at blending into society. The only time they dress out as skinheads is when they think it serves a specific political motivation. Otherwise, they don't look the part."
Between organizing rallies, looking after his daughter, holding down a full-time job, and overseeing several popular skinhead websites, Lynch is somehow finding the time to put the finishing touches on a 400-page "global Aryan" manifesto that he's been working on for years, according to law enforcement sources. An excerpt recently posted to the Sacto Skins online "Book of Hate" gives an idea of the grandiloquent masterpiece to come: "Our Folk are no longer allowing petty bullshit and drama to keep us from our common goals. We are growing closer than we have ever been and through strong global networking and cooperative action we are establishing a worldwide community with a singular purpose: The survival of our Folk."