A Texas man with a past conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon has been identified as a leader in the white nationalist Patriot Front group, a Hatewatch investigation has revealed.
Content warning: This article contains graphic language, including an anti-gay slur. Reader discretion is advised.
Brenner Alexander Cole, 25, of Driftwood, Texas, has been a Patriot Front member since at least 2021 and since has assumed a leadership role within the group, according to leaked documents found by the media collective Unicorn Riot. The cache of leaked documents, which includes audio recordings of group meetings, shows that Cole became a network director for Patriot Front on Dec. 10, 2021; this role helps to plan propaganda runs, coordinate Patriot Front demonstrations and recruit new members. Cole also appears to have planned to drop a Patriot Front banner over an FBI billboard that advertises how to report hate crimes, but whether the action was carried out is unclear.
A Hatewatch investigation shows Cole appearing to welcome his local leadership role in the white nationalist group, using his position of authority to promote the group’s white nationalist ideology and motivate members to commit to their cause. Unmasking Cole and outlining his activities provides a window into the small but committed group of middle managers who oversee the circulation of Patriot Front’s racist propaganda into communities across the U.S.
Hatewatch contacted Cole over the phone. After Hatewatch staff introduced themselves, Cole said, “Oh great.”
Asked whether he had heard of the staff member and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cole said, “Yeah, and I have nothing to say to you,” before hanging up the phone.
Hatewatch sent Cole a summary of this report's findings along with a list of specific questions, but received no response.
Identifying Brenner Alexander Cole
Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group known for spreading racist propaganda and parading unannounced in cities across the U.S. They often chant racist and anti-immigrant slogans and carry banners with bigoted messaging. Thomas Rousseau, 25, of Grapevine, Texas, leads the group, but he relies on a loyal group of middle managers, including Cole, as network directors to manage Patriot Front members’ activities in specific regions. Cole manages the south Texas region for Patriot Front.
After receiving a tip about a knife fight that led to Cole’s arrest in Hays County, Texas, Hatewatch compared Cole’s booking photographs to leaked videos of Patriot Front members training in a Texas park. The booking photographs and still images of the training videos appear to be the same person. Hatewatch also found a photograph of Cole from a relative’s Facebook page, which appears to show the same person visible in the leaked training videos.
In the training videos, Rousseau and other Patriot Front members are heard referring to Cole as “James.” After being vetted, new Patriot Front recruits choose an alias to avoid the social consequences involved with joining an openly white supremacist and bigoted group. Patriot Front members include their state of residence to make it easier to identify one another, according to court documents.
Hatewatch reached out to associates of Cole over email to verify his identify as James TX but did not hear back.
After identifying Cole’s alias as James TX, Hatewatch searched through leaked messages via an open-source messaging service called Rocket.Chat using a private server and found James TX talking about his car.
“I’m parked by the marble slab creamery and Starbucks, under a giant billboard,” James TX writes on Dec. 11, 2021.
Douglas TX, who has yet to be identified, responds a few moments later, “White Honda?”
James TX responds in seconds, “Silver.”
In a separate direct message to another Patriot Front member, James TX is asked about his car and its gas mileage, to which he responds, “Mine is a 2015 Honda Accord, mileage on the highway is around 35 miles per gallon.”
Cole owns a silver 2015 Honda Accord, according to data brokers.
On Dec. 23, 2018, Cole was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for his involvement in an incident that left one person with knife wounds on their leg, according to a grand jury indictment dated Sept. 11, 2019.
According to the police report of the incident obtained by Hatewatch from the Hays County Sheriff’s office, Cole was involved in a road rage incident on Ranch Road 12 near San Marcos, Texas, while driving his 2015 silver Honda Accord.
Cole told responding officers that he became agitated when the victim, who was the driver of the other car, began to tailgate him, according to the police report. Cole said he slammed on his brakes several times, which is also known as brake-checking. Cole said he then “stuck his middle finger out of the window” and started to tailgate the car after it passed, according to the police report. When the driver of the other car pulled to the side of the road, Cole said he pulled in behind the vehicle to confront the driver, according to the police report.
The passenger in the victim’s vehicle said that once they pulled over Cole jumped out of his car brandishing a knife and hurled an anti-gay slur, saying, “Fucking f****t, you’re gonna get it,” according to the police report.
Cole pleaded guilty to the charges Jan. 16, 2020, and according to his plea agreement, was placed under community supervision for eight years, fined $500, ordered to undergo counseling and required to complete 100 hours of community service. Under the conditions of community supervision Cole signed on March 10, 2020, Cole agreed to “avoid persons or places of disreputable or harmful character” and was ordered not to leave Hays County and the state of Texas without permission, and to report as directed to his supervision officer, among other conditions.
After Cole had served two years of community supervision, his lawyer filed a motion for early release, which the district court judge granted on Aug. 16, 2022, writing in the order, “The court is of the opinion that the ends of justice have been served and the interest of Brenner Cole and of society will be best served by the discharge of Brenner Cole.”
By the time he was released six years early from court supervision, Cole had risen to become a leader in Patriot Front. He appears to have participated in activities that may have violated conditions of his supervision by leaving Hays County a few times, including to interview potential recruits near Houston and to lead a team of Patriot Front members at a rally in Washington, D.C.
Promoting white nationalism
Cole appears to have violated conditions of his community supervision on Dec. 4, 2021, by helping plan and execute, under the alias James TX, a Patriot Front rally in Washington, D.C.
Gregg Cox, the first assistant district attorney for Hays County, told Hatewatch in an email response to a list of questions about Cole’s case, “There is no one available that I could talk to for additional context,” after noting that the prosecutors, staff and judge who worked on Cole’s case are no longer employed by Hays County.
“When someone is placed on community supervision, the probation department handles all supervision about that person. The DA’s Office has no role in their supervision,” Cox added.
Asked about whether Cole’s activities in Patriot Front violated conditions of his court-ordered community supervision, Cox said that he reviewed Cole’s case files and said, “In my opinion, some of the activities you described and asked about could have been alleged as the basis of a motion to revoke, but I have no way of knowing whether anyone at the probation department had knowledge of those activities.”
The director of the community supervision and corrections department in Hays County, Eric Aguirre, told Hatewatch that he could not comment on whether Cole was issued a travel permit but added that his office wasn’t aware that Cole was out of Hays County during his time on community supervision.
“Had we been aware of it, or if there were violations, we would have taken those to the district attorney’s office or to the court and asked for direction,” Aquirre said.
According to leaked documents and private messages, James TX – which is an alias Hatewatch has identified as Cole – helped prepare what the group refers to as the “rear guard” for the D.C. rally. As seen in photographs posted to Patriot Front propaganda channels on Telegram, the rear guard brandishes metal shields and wears protective equipment at rallies. According to leaked documents, the rear guard is part of the larger shield team that trains to protect the group from counterprotesters.
In a group chat to shield team members on Nov. 24, 2021, James TX writes: “Keep in mind, if someone grabs the shield with both hands it leaves them open to getting bashed. I took a shield to the lip and trust me, if someone steps to us and gets a taste they won’t want seconds.”
Writing under James TX, Cole also appears to coordinate the drive from Texas to D.C. In a message sent on Dec. 1, 2021, to a group chat of Patriot Front leaders in Texas, James TX writes: “The trip is about 20 hours, without stopping. We leave at midnight the 2nd, and should get to the campgrounds before midnight the 3rd. This will give us some time to rest, but we will march the morning of Saturday the 4th. We also have to drill beforehand. Getting sleep en route will be important.”
Less than an hour later, Jason TX responds: “So, one guy will have to stay awake with the driver. … I do not want what happened to me in Utah to happen to me again or any of you guys.”
James TX responds several hours later: “Same. It won’t happen, don’t worry.”
An earlier Hatewatch investigation identified Jason TX as Antonio Barr, who survived a deadly auto accident that happened in Utah in the early morning of Feb. 28, 2021. While on a propaganda run, the driver fell asleep, sending the vehicle careening into a ditch. One person died, and six were injured. Rousseau, who was also a passenger, had to undergo emergency surgery.
Hatewatch left Barr a voicemail to a number associated with Barr on data broker websites but never heard back. An email to Barr requesting comment also went unanswered.
After returning from the D.C. rally, James TX helped coordinate and conduct interviews with potential recruits near Houston, ostensibly violating the conditions of his community supervision that he agreed to in his plea deal, including not being able to leave Hays County without permission from his supervision officer.
In a Dec. 10, 2021, private message to an unidentified Patriot Front member, James TX writes: “We have two applicants, both in the north Houston area. I’ve planned to meet one at 9 AM in Lake Conroe Park, and the other at 12 noon in downtown historic Conroe.”
The next day he keeps a member of his network informed of the progress of his interviews. James TX checks in after the first interview in the park, writing, “I’m heading to ‘downtown conroe.’” [sic]
Eighteen minutes later, James TX, which is Cole’s apparent alias, sends two more messages. In the first message, James TX, writes, “I’m parking at the First Baptist Conroe parking lot.” Thirty seconds later, James TX sends a screenshot of a Google Maps image that includes a blue icon that Google uses to show the location of the app user. The blue icon appears across the street from the church.
‘It requires a lot from all of us’
Using the alias James TX, Cole appears as a prototypical network director for Patriot Front and seems to have earned his position due to the commitment and aggressiveness he brings to the group. Network directors ensure their network meets propaganda, training and fitness goals, which James TX appears to have begun to unofficially oversee in November 2021, according to a cache of leaked documents and audio recordings.
According to a leaked audio recording of a Patriot Front meeting, Rousseau officially appoints James TX to the network director position on Dec. 10, 2021, asserting that he and other Patriot Front members in south Texas made this decision together.
“He has approached the role with a steadfast determination and a courageous yet tempered approach to risk and precaution,” Rousseau said of James TX. Rousseau adds, “It has been most wonderful to see how this activist has transformed his levels of commitment this year and become an exemplar to follow.”
Hatewatch attempted to reach Rousseau through his group’s website but received no response.
According the SPLC’s Map of Hate Group Flyering in the U.S., Patriot Front has posted 10 times more racist propaganda than other groups that use this tactic. In 2022, communities in Texas saw a 20% increase in racist flyering from 2021. Nearly 80% of these flyers in 2022 were from Patriot Front; network directors like Cole are essential for keeping propaganda numbers at such elevated levels.
For example, James TX (Cole’s alias) organized and took part in a propaganda run on the campus of Texas State University on the night of Nov. 17, 2021. Two days prior, on Nov. 15, 2021, James TX reached out to an unidentified member in a private message to ask if he wanted to "go sticker" later that week. "Stickering" refers to posting Patriot Front's propaganda in public spaces.
When the unidentified member agreed, James TX (Cole’s alias) responded: “Wonderful. I want to get Texas State, and have some media coverage if possible.”
The night of Nov. 17, James TX tried to find the member who agreed to join the propaganda run. “I don’t see you,” James TX writes. Less than a minute later, James TX asks, “Are you at the round theater by sewell park?” [sic] Another minute later, James TX sends a photograph appearing to show a building on campus at night.
James TX was unable to find the other member that night. In a series of back-and-forth direct messages about an hour after James TX tried to find the other member, he accuses the other member of wasting his time and being “full of it.”
In between sending angry messages to the unidentified member, James TX posts a message to his network’s group chat, writing “Stickered Texas State University. 30 plus stickers.”
After being appointed network director, James TX appears to have found another propaganda target on Interstate 35: an FBI billboard that advertises how to report hate crimes. Patriot Front members have covered a few billboards with giant racist banners, including a Black Lives Matter billboard in September 2020 in Houston, according to a Patriot Front propaganda video. In late October 2021, the Patriot Front network that covers parts of Missouri and Illinois covered the exact same FBI billboard with racist propaganda, and then they created a how-to document they shared with other members that was found in the cache of leaked documents.
Seemingly motivated to prove himself capable and loyal to the white nationalist group, James TX talks about his idea to Patrick TX and Rousseau. Patrick TX is the well-known alias of Kieran Morris.
“Every time I drive by, it mocks me,” James TX writes about the FBI billboard in a private message to Morris.
Several hours later, James TX sends a private message to Rousseau saying: “Got a close look today. One of the ‘FBI – report hate crimes’ boards. It’s off a frontage road, in a field with barbed wire fencing around it. Seems pretty safe if done at night, but parking is tricky.”
It is unclear if James TX, which is Cole’s apparent alias, ever followed through with his plans. Nothing on a billboard cover-up along Interstate 35 has appeared in local news or Patriot Front propaganda channels.
James TX also plays a cheerleading role for the group and supplies advice to members on how best to serve the group.
“We are a revolutionary nationalist organization, and it requires a lot from all of us,” James TX writes on Nov. 18, 2021, in a direct message to a member of his network. “I would hope you stay in, or at least remain an unaffiliate. I almost left months ago, and I’m glad I didn’t. If you are set on leaving, good luck out there brother.”
Unaffiliate is a Patriot Front designation used to denote a supporter who can take part in group activities.
Using the alias James TX in a message to his network’s group chat on Dec. 15, 2021, Cole offers advice on operational security, or “opsec”: “Opsec is high, ultimately it comes down to the individual to take necessary precautions to protect their identity. Risk is always a factor, but you can mitigate that.”
Photo illustration by SPLC