Welcome to Fall, MW readers! Here’s a new MilitiaWatch Monthly covering the month of September 2023. No Pumpkin Spice Lattes in this post, but instead a focus on some stories like these:
- Prison escapes and militias and/or vigilantes
- Final legal updates for Boog and Whitmer cases
- CSPOA hosts sheriffs gathering in NC, your sheriff may have joined
- VT hijinx over a militia training compound continue
- Militia-linked harassment at an activist’s home in CA
- Things get frisky at the Alamo as TITFF activists attack protester
The previous MW Monthly (covering July and August 2023) can be read here:
Prison Escapes, Militia or Vigilantism
On 29 September, Jonathan Schmidt O’Dell and another inmate at the Phelps County Federal Prison escaped. O’Dell evaded arrest for several days before cops recaptured him on 1 October. Jonathan is awaiting trial for a federal indictment related to his alleged plans to murder migrants and Border Patrol staff in Texas alongside his militia. His network was creatively named the “2nd Amendment Militia” and he posted calls to violence and planning materials on his TikTok ahead of his arrest.
Completely unrelated and on a different note, Danelo Cavalcante in Pennsylvania evaded police arrest for nearly two weeks at the start of September. Cavalcante was not a militia figure, but the manhunt for him (and a $20,000 reward for his capture) led to a bizarre-if-not-typical mobilization of armed vigilantes patrolling Chester County searching for him. The cops said these would-be vigilantes were a “hindrance” to their investigations and complained about them getting in the way.
On 27 September, a federal jury convicted Boogaloo adherent Robert Alvin Justus Jr for the murder of Federal Protective Service Officer David Patrick Underwood in California in 2020. Justus was an associate of Steven Carillo, who pleaded guilty last year for his role in the attack. Carillo fired the lethal shots, but Justus drove the van used in the attack.
In Michigan this month, a jury found the final three Michigan Whitmer kidnapping plot defendants not guilty for their alleged role in the planned attack. These men, Eric Molitor and brothers William and Michael Null, were among the 14 total charged as part of the case. Of the others charged, all but two (Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta) either pleaded guilty or were judged guilty in state or federal court. The Null brothers were very public and well-known members of the Michigan Liberty Militia ahead of the plot, speaking on behalf of the group at events and carrying weapons in the name of the militia.
In the second week of September in Cherokee County in North Carolina, Cherokee County Sheriff Dustin Smith and local right-wing grassroots organizations hosted the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) for a day-and-a-half-long ideological training event. Sheriffs attended from across much of the southeast to see speeches by the likes of CSPOA founder Richard Mack and friend-of-the-Null-Brothers Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf.
In Vermont this month, a 60-day warrant for Daniel Banyai expired after police failed to execute the warrant. Banyai runs a controversial militia training site known as Slate Ridge and has refused to allow county oversight access to his land to ensure the site is up to compliance. Banyai claimed that he complied with court document requests in July. The government of the town of Pawlet has requested an update to the warrant but state police have expressed an apathetic view on the matter. On Tuesday, October 3, Banyai attended the Pawlet Selectboard to shout at members before they ordered the end of the meeting after he refused to stop shouting at them at the conclusion of his time. Closing his remarks as a constable attempted to move him from the meeting, Banyai strangely accused the board of being “racist”.
In Northern California, a handful of far-right (and militia-linked) activists have been routinely harassing a local progressive activist at his camper van, hurling death threats and even shaking his home. These men include Jesse Lane, Carlos Zapata, and Richard Gallardo, who have all been filmed terrorizing the 56-year-old activist. The progressive activist believes the police gave the right-wingers his address.
In mid-September at the Alamo in San Antonio, armed activists with the This is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF) gathered to ‘Remember the Alamo’, calling for the preservation of the Alamo Cenotaph. At the gathering, TITFF attacked an elderly counter-protester, pushing him to the ground.
- For the Guardian, Jason Wilson writes on Venmo records showing Oath Keepers dues payments after J6
- For USA Today, Will Carless writes on failures from the DHS to tackle far-right extremism