Members of a white supremacist skinhead group called American Front trained with AK-47s, shotguns and explosives at a fortified compound in central Florida to prepare for what its reputed leader believed to be an “inevitable race war,” prosecutors said Tuesday.
According to court documents, members of American Front discussed acts of violence that included causing “a disturbance” at City Hall in Orlando, shooting at a house and attacking an anti-racist skinhead group.
At least 10 members of the group, which authorities described as a militia-styled, anti-Semitic domestic terrorist organization, have been arrested in Florida since the weekend, including at least three people on Tuesday.
The felony arrest charges include paramilitary training, attempting to shoot into an occupied dwelling, and evidence of prejudices while committing an offense. The last charge falls under Florida’s hate-crimes law.
“This investigation is a result of our ongoing partnership with local law enforcement and federal agencies in a concentrated effort to stamp out hate crime in our community,” Ninth Circuit State Attorney Lawson Lamar said in a statement Tuesday.
His office said he would not comment further on the case because the investigation is ongoing.
According to a court statement from Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly Boaz filed in support of an arrest warrant, the group was led by Marcus Faella, 39, of St. Cloud, Fla. He and his wife, Patricia Faella, 36, were among those arrested over the weekend.
“Marcus Faella has been planning and preparing the AF for what he believes to be an inevitable race war. Faella has stated his intent during the race war to kill Jews, immigrants, and other minorities. Faella believes the race war will take place within the next few years based on current world events.”
Much of the information of the alleged plots came from an informant who infiltrated the group in mid-2010.
According to Boaz:
Faella viewed himself and fellow members of the American Front as “protectors of the white race.” He regularly conducted firearms, explosives and military/tactical training at his rural property in Saint Cloud and in the swamps of a Florida wildlife management area.
Faella’s remote property was surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by two pit bulls. It contained fortified entrenchments built from railroad timbers, cement piling and other materials.
Faella regularly held weapons training on his compound, where he also stored water, meals ready to eat and other survivalist-type supplies. During target practice he told participants to visualize the jugs of water they were shooting at as the heads of black people, which he referred to by the N-word.
In July 2011, an American Front member from Missouri who was also in the National Guard visited the compound and conducted paramilitary training, including hand-to-hand combat techniques, that he learned from the Guard.
Last November, an American Front member, Jessy Brown, committed suicide with a 12-gauge shotgun on Faella’s property, the informant reported. The weapon belonged to Faella.
In January, a recruit beat up a former American Front member at a local bar for “comments made against the AF on Facebook.” No charges were filed in that case.
In February, Faella started planning to “cause a disturbance” at Orlando City Hall “so the media would report on it and bring new members to AF.” No attack was ever carried out.
Faella also wanted members to “hunt down” members of an anti-racism skinhead group called REDS and “put their teeth to the curb” – an apparent reference to violent acts portrayed in “American History X,” a 1998 movie about the roots of race hatred in America.
Law enforcement became increasingly concerned when the informant reported that Faella and his followers were plotting to attack REDS members during “May Day” protests on May 1 in Melbourne, Fla., and “shoot up” the house of a REDS official.
Fearing that his cover might be blown, the informant destroyed his cellphone after removing the memory card. He fled the area and contacted police.
The May Day confrontation apparently never took place.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala.-based hate watchdog, describes the American Front as a California-based group of skinheads with a propensity for violence. The group was founded in the late 1980s, faded from national headlines in the 1990s and then saw a major resurgence around 2007 under new leader David Lynch.
Lynch was killed by an unknown attacker in his Sacramento, Calif., home on March 2, 2011. In California, the group has shrunk significantly. “Now, most of its activities – and, apparently, most of its members – are in Florida,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok wrote on the center’s Hatewatch blog.
In addition to the Faellas, others arrested in Florida include:
- Jennifer McGowan, 25, of Kissimmee
- Mark McGowan, 29, of Cocoa
- Diane Stevens 28, of Kissimmee
- Kent McLellan, 22, of St. Cloud
- Paul Jackson, 25, of St. Cloud
- Christopher Brooks, 27, of St. Cloud
- Richard Stockdale, 23, of St. Cloud
- Dustin Perry, 21, of Kissimmee