The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced on Wednesday that the FBI had arrested 26-year-old John Cameron Denton for his alleged role in a conspiracy involving swatting — the practice of calling in false reports to the police, leading to raids by heavily armed SWAT teams — that occurred in the state.
Denton, an alleged former leader in the neo-Nazi group the Atomwaffen Division, has been connected to three swatting calls in Virginia, made between November 2018 and January 2019, to a Cabinet official living near D.C., to Old Dominion University, and to the historically black Alfred Street Baptist Church, which was founded 1803. Atomwaffen, which means “atomic weapon” in German, popped up in 2015 on the neo-fascist forum Iron March. Alleged members of the accelerationist group have been linked to at least five murders.
Prosecutors also allege that Denton swatted ProPublica after the nonprofit investigative outlet named him in a 2018 report on the Atomwaffen Division. (In the conversation with the dispatcher, the caller said he had pipe bombs, an assault rifle, a hostage, and a dead body.) In the report, journalists from ProPublica describe Denton as a “short and wiry” 24-year-old who “seems to favor camouflage pants and black T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of National Socialist Black Metal bands.”
Records and interviews show Denton goes by the name Rape in the online conversations, and he appears to be involved in nearly every aspect of the organization. He shapes Atomwaffen’s ideology, chooses designs for its distinctive black-and-white posters and online propaganda, and selects the books that new recruits must study as part of their initiation, said a former Atomwaffen member interviewed by ProPublica.
During the investigation, Denton met with an undercover officer, told the officer about his role in the swatting calls, and claimed that he used a voice changer. According to prosecutors, Denton said that it would be beneficial for the Atomwaffen Division if he was “raided” for the swatting, because he viewed it as a high-profile crime. If convicted, Denton could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
On Wednesday, four more members of the hate group were arrested. Cameron Brandon Shea, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe, Johnny Roman Garza, and Atomwaffen’s alleged co-leader Kaleb Cole were charged in the Western District of Washington for “conspiracy to threaten and intimidate journalists and activists,” according to prosecutors.