Local media reported on March 16, 2018, that four threatening letters were received at the federal courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee.
Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the letters which included “death threats” to local federal judges, prosecutors and court workers (including the families). The letters also stated there was a bomb in the federal building.
U.S. District Attorney Michael Dunavant said, “we are aware of the threat, and the U.S. Marshals Service and FBI are investigating.” “We take all threats to federal employees and facilities seriously.”
According to the District Attorney, the letters mention various neo-Confederate and white nationalist themes such as “901 Confederates,” “#savethestatues,” “this is a call for Aryan resurgence,” and “they are members of a vanguard of Aryan resurgence and ultimately total Aryan victory.” One letter allegedly mentions, “the inmate is taking every step to recruit anti-government soldiers.” The letters also said that “people are going to kill and torture federal workers and their families.”
The letters are reportedly signed by four identified inmates currently incarcerated at the East Arkansas Regional Unit in Marianna, Arkansas. All four inmates are in prison for committing serious crimes. The name listed on the return address for all four letters is “Arron Lewis.” Lewis, who included his inmate number, was convicted in January 2016 of the 2014 murder of Beverly Carter, an Arkansas realtor. Lewis was sentenced to life in prison without parole on the capital murder charge. The jury also sentenced him to life in prison for the kidnapping charge. Both charges will be served consecutively. Investigators have yet to determine who actually wrote the letters.
District Attorney Mike Dunavant says the U.S. Marshals Service is reviewing and following their normal protocol for heightened security measures for the federal building and personnel. A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Corrections says they are cooperating with the U.S. Marshals Service, and referred any questions about potential charges against the inmates to the feds.
The Aryan Nations is the largest prison gang operating in Tennessee’s state correctional system. Despite having the same name and using similar hate symbology, it’s an entirely separate organization than the former neo-Nazi group called “Aryan Nations” based in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Further, it’s not affiliated with the Idaho-based group’s prison outreach efforts during the 1980s.
The Aryan Nations prison gang has more than 230 members in Knox County, Tennessee, alone, according to a law enforcement source. Other recent estimates put the group’s size at between 900 and 950 total members throughout Tennessee, as of 2016.
Aryan Nations gang members are known for carrying out violent crimes both inside and outside of prison. For example, Ronnie L. Wilson, an Aryan Nations gang member, is accused of shooting a Knoxville police officer on January 11, 2018, during a traffic stop. Wilson was later captured in Blount County a few days later. Also, in June 2014, five Aryan Nations gang members were charged with attempted murder in the horrific beating of a fellow white supremacist. Other members have been charged with murder, burglaries and firearms violations since 2014.