Friday, February 22, 2013
FBI: Armed Neo-Nazi supporter put metro-Detroit Jewish and civil rights leaders on a hit list
Yet when FBI agents last December searched his home and store, they discovered a cache of 18 weapons that included AR-15 assault rifles, 9 mm Ruger and Sig Sauer pistols, shotguns, high-capacity magazines and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition. Schmidt was originally reported to have been arrested on charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods, but was indicted last month on four federal charges —including possessing illegal weapons, body armor and ammunition. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“As a matter of policy, I don’t comment on pending cases,” his lawyer, Andy Hart, a federal public defender in Toledo, said when reached by telephone.
Dettelbach, who is overseeing the case, said that federal agents have been unable to determine how and where Schmidt obtained his weapons, prompting officials to conclude he likely acquired them at gun shows or through private sales -- where under federal law no background checks are required. .
“It’s scary,” he said about Schmidt’s arsenal of weapons. “It’s not … that I won’t say” where Schmidt got his guns. “It’s that sitting here today as a senior federal law enforcement official in northern Ohio, I can’t say.”
The investigation into Schmidt was conducted by a FBI Joint terrorism Task Force whose agents said they discovered he was tracking African American and Jewish leaders in the Detroit area. When agents conducted their search, they said they found evidence suggesting Schmidt harbored neo-Nazi sympathies, including a video of the 2005 national meeting of the National Socialist Movement — in which speakers wore black swastika arm bands and gave the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute. “This is a war! This is a battle for our survival!” one speaker shouts on a video of the meeting obtained by NBC News. Other seized items, according to federal search warrants, included a list of national Jewish-owned businesses and paraphernalia from the “Waffen SS,” Adolph Hitler’s military force in Germany.
'Very unsettling, very disturbing'
Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP, said that FBI agents showed him a page of one of Schmidt’s notebooks which included information about members of Anthony’s family as well as distances between his home, office and his church. They also told him they were concerned about “a possible threat against the NAACP and me in particular,” he said.
“It was mind blowing,” Anthony said. “Very unsettling, very disturbing, and it really kind of made me angry.” When he was told about Schmidt’s weapons, Anthony said, “I made the comment that this guy is a one man army and they said, ‘Yes, looks like it.’”
The FBI gave a similar briefing to Scott Kaufman, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. He said agents also showed him a page of Schmidt’s notebook showing his name and the names of others in leadership positions in his organization, as well as the names of tenants in his building and driving directions to his office.
“When I saw my name on a piece of paper along with information about our organization and our building written by an alleged neo-Nazi, it was certainly unnerving,” he said.
Anthony and Kaufman said the FBI asked them not to share copies of the notebook pages with NBC News because Schmidt’s case is ongoing. They also said agents had no specific evidence of what Schmidt might have been planning – or whether he was working with anybody else. An FBI spokeswoman declined comment.