The detailed plans – never carried out – spelled out on a recording of Texas attorney Jason Van Dyke involved close surveillance, a potential ambush attack resulting in a killing, an escape, a faked death and – if violence wasn’t feasible – a psychological terror campaign.
“I want this guy cowering in a corner with his dogs wondering when I’m going to show up and come for him,” Van Dyke said.
An informant captured Van Dyke discussing the potential plots on a recording obtained pursuant to an Open Records Act request by Hatewatch from the Oak Point, Texas, police department. Van Dyke was once a prominent leader in the hate group the Proud Boys.
The existence of the alleged plots surfaced in a lawsuit between Van Dyke and Thomas Christopher Retzlaff of Arizona, an antagonist of Van Dyke.
A report from Oak Point, Texas, police, along with an affidavit for a search warrant of Van Dyke’s home gave the outline of the plans, which included using the Arizona chapter of the Proud Boys to do surveillance.
Hatewatch requested and received copies of the report and recording from the Oak Point, Texas, Department of Public Safety after references to the alleged plot surfaced in the lawsuit between the men.
The recording obtained from the police department fills in details in Van Dyke’s own words. On the recording, which runs about 42 minutes, Van Dyke lays out two potential plans, which can be at turns chilling and far-fetched.
The first would have involved the shooting death of Retzlaff near his home in Phoenix. The second would have involved Van Dyke fleeing the country, leaving a fake suicide note, then using the Proud Boys to terrorize Retzlaff through the mail.
The Proud Boys Arizona chapter, in an email to Hatewatch, denied being involved in the alleged surveillance and said they aren’t associated with Van Dyke.
“P.S. Go [expletive] yourself Nazi,” the group said in an unsigned email “With love, the Arizona Proud Boys.”
Van Dyke, in an email to Hatewatch, said Retzlaff isn’t trustworthy and that he didn’t do any of the things he’s accused of.
“I deny all of the accusations Mr. Retzlaff has made against me including the conducting of any surveillance on Mr. Retzlaff,” Van Dyke said.
Retzlaff told Hatewatch that the FBI should have arrested Van Dyke once investigators got ahold of the recording.
“I'm [expletive] pissed at the FBI and the police for dragging their feet,” Retzlaff said. “And I'm scared and upset.”
A violent discussion
Van Dyke and Retzlaff are quite familiar with each other. Retzlaff filed a bar complaint against Van Dyke that resulted in the suspension of his law license. Retzlaff also published the bar complaint online, even though such complaints are normally kept secret. The two men have also done legal combat in at least three federal civil suits, including the one in Texas where the police report outlining the alleged murder plot surfaced.
“I spent the better part of this week planning this out,” Van Dyke said.
On the recording obtained from the Oak Point police department, Van Dyke describes how he used the Proud Boys in Arizona to track down the condominium complex where Retzlaff lives, what kind of security is there, what type of cars Retzlaff drives and even how many dogs he has.
Van Dyke, speaking to an unidentified man, said he preferred using a “long gun” to shoot Retzlaff rather than a pistol.
“Most people survive a pistol shot, and I don’t want him to survive,” Van Dyke said.
The plan, though, ran into a few hitches. Van Dyke spoke of reviewing satellite images of the condominium complex, the security there and having problems figuring out which cars belong to Retzlaff.
“My people on the ground have been unable to lay eyes on him, but they’ve got pictures. They’ve got very recent pictures,” Van Dyke said on the recording provided by the police.
Van Dyke eventually concluded that killing Retzlaff at the condominium wasn’t feasible, so he moved on to a plot to kill his antagonist off-site.
“The only other place we know he goes is a P.O. box, which is where he gets his mail,” Van Dyke said.
That idea, though, had its own complications.
“There is a modest amount of parking there, but there is no place that doesn’t have a significant number of cameras where I could sit up to get a clean shot with a rifle,” Van Dyke said four minutes into the recording obtained from the police.
Van Dyke discussed details about which post office box Retzlaff used, how often he went there and the fact that a post office is federal property.
At this point, an escape also became part of the potential plot.
“The idea was Arizona being a border state, I take out Retzlaff, once I confirm he doesn’t have a pulse, I head straight to Mexico and down through there in my truck. … I can get along in Spanish, I can get gas and stuff,” Van Dyke said.
On the recording, Van Dyke told the unidentified man that he would also kill a Retzlaff associate, and another man Van Dyke deemed responsible for his troubles with the Texas Bar Association.
“Really the only purpose for them was to ensure that if I am caught, I get the death penalty so I’m not rotting in prison for the rest of my life,” Van Dyke said about eight minutes into the recording obtained from the Oak Point police. “That was really the only reasoning behind those.”
On the recording, Van Dyke realized his plot to kill Retzlaff might be unrealistic, so he shifted gears to a possible campaign of psychological terror and faking his own death.
“I make it extremely obvious that I’ve left everything I own behind and that my target is Retzlaff and I’m coming straight for him,” Van Dyke said. “I even make sure I’m seen at a gun store with lots of cameras, buying a new rifle and new scope and everything that day, make sure I’m seen at an indoor range sighting in that scope and buying extremely lethal ammunition that day.”
From there, Van Dyke told the informant, he would leave a note behind at his home in east Texas saying, “I’m going to end this, basically.” Believing police would look for him in Houston, where an associate of Retzlaff’s is based, or Phoenix, where Retzlaff lives, Van Dyke said he would leave the country and head for Mazatlan in Mexico.
Van Dyke talked of going somewhere with a place to stay, where few questions would be asked and the plan to torture Retzlaff psychologically could be executed.
Van Dyke also believed that the FBI and local police would begin a global search for him.
“They’re going to assume you left the country,” the unidentified man tells Van Dyke on the recording.
“They’re going to assume I committed suicide. That’s exactly what I want them to believe and they’re going to start looking for some stuff,” Van Dyke responds. “They’ll eventually figure out I left the country and that’s going to drive them to wonder why.”
Once out of the country, Van Dyke said, the plan involved leaving Retzlaff and his associate wondering what would happen.
“It’ll be the last sane thought it their head,” Van Dyke said. “The idea is to psychologically torture them.”
Van Dyke proposed having the Proud Boys in Arizona taking photos of Retzlaff’s condominium or other photos of him and periodically mailing the pictures to his target in unmarked envelopes from around the country.
“My idea is to drive him insane and say wow, I really f----- with the wrong guy,” Van Dyke said. “The only way I can do it convincingly is to leave everything behind so that he believes that the only thing I’ve got left, that the last thing I want to do in this life is to kill him.”
Van Dyke hoped to have Retzlaff “living in fear” and wondering if or when he would return.
Van Dyke also insisted on the recording that the stalking and psychological torture he was contemplating wouldn’t be a serious crime. Staying out of the country for seven years would allow the relative statutes of limitation to run out on any crime, and his law license would already have been revoked, Van Dyke said.
“What are they doing to do? Prosecute me for skipping town without telling anyone and with my own money?” Van Dyke said. “That’s a good one.”
Van Dyke’s plots caught on the recording provided by the police haven’t come to fruition.
Police in Oak Point, Texas, documented the plot in a report, but didn’t arrest anyone. A grand jury declined to press charges in 2019.
For now, the litigation between Van Dyke and Retzlaff continues unabated.
No trial date has been set in the case.
Photo illustration by SPLC