But along with that infamy came three felony charges, for which Cantwell says he will turn himself in sometime today.
This afternoon, he told Hatewatch in a brief phone call that he was “in the process … right now” of turning himself in to police, and he didn’t want to answer further questions.
“I don’t want to fucking talk politics with you. Goodbye,” he said, and hung up.
According to the Associated Press, Cantwell faces “two counts of the illegal use of tear gas or other gases and one count of malicious bodily injury with a ‘caustic substance,’ explosive or fire.” He’s being charged for an incident on Friday, August 11, when he used pepper spray against a counter protester.
In his widely circulated, tearful video — posted when he was still in Charlottesville — Cantwell expressed his fears about being wanted by law enforcement, pleading to police, “I’m afraid you’re going to kill me. I really am.” His attitude is surprising — as Cantwell himself points out later in the video, this is certainly not his first brush with the law.
He was first jailed in 2000 after pleading guilty to three misdemeanors: 5th degree criminal possession of stolen property, 4th degree criminal possession of a weapon and driving while intoxicated. He says he served four months out of a six-month sentence.
While discussing that period of his life, Cantwell said, “I was involved in so much bullshit when I was a teenager, honestly, that’s like what I got caught for was the least of the shit I did.”
He was briefly incarcerated a second time in 2009 after another DWI, for which he took another plea deal. In 2015, he got involved with law enforcement again when he filmed himself pulling out his gun during a dispute with strangers in Keene, New Hampshire, where he lives. After reviewing his video, police did not file any charges. Cantwell wrote about the incident on his blog, Radical Agenda, in a post called, “I Almost Killed Somebody Last Night.”
Cantwell is fond of extreme — often disturbing — violent rhetoric. On multiple occasions he has advocated killing police officers and government officials, and in a 2014 speech, claimed he had at one time considered going on a shooting rampage.
“My mind went to very dark places,” he said. “I was going to go out blasting and take as many of them with me as I could.”
In the past two years, he has shifted his ire away from law enforcement and onto minorities. On his radio program in January 2015, he expressed sympathy for mass murderer Dylann Roof.
“I would go ahead and I would say that I don’t know that Dylann Roof made the fuckin’ best use of his life by fucking throwing it away on these fucking animals in the goddamn church,” Cantwell said. “But I understand what he’s going through, right?”
His venomous racism and anti-Semitism were on full display during the VICE documentary, as was his aggression, when he told the reporter:
I’m carrying a pistol. I go to the gym all the time. I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence. I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that.
So it was strange when, near the end of his emotional video post, he told his audience, “If I was a violent guy, you would have heard about it by now.”
Indeed, he is — and indeed, they have.