Updated June 3, 2020 - 7:30 pm
Three men with ties to the U.S. military and the anti-government “boogaloo” movement began organizing in Las Vegas during protests against COVID-19 shutdown orders, and they turned to recent police brutality protests as an excuse to incite violence, according to a criminal complaint.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that three Las Vegas men were arrested Saturday and charged in federal court with “conspiracy to cause destruction” during protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. The men were arrested after they planned to attend Saturday night’s protest on the Strip armed with Molotov cocktails to target police, according to a federal criminal complaint.
A confidential informant told officials the men “wanted to use the momentum of the George Floyd death in policy custody in the City of Minneapolis to hopefully stir enough confusion and excitement” to cause riots, the complaint said.
Stephen “Kiwi” Parshall, 35, Andrew Lynam, 23, and William Loomis, 40, were charged in federal court with one count of conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive, and one count of possession of unregistered firearms, “that is, a destructive device,” according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.
J.J. MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, has been monitoring anti-government extremists and has noted some “boogaloo bois” at recent police brutality protests in the U.S., The Associated Press reported.
“They want to co-opt them in order to start their war,” MacNab told The Associated Press. “They see themselves as being on the side of protesters and that the protesters themselves are useful in causing anarchy.”
The men have ties to the military and were part of the “Nevada Boogaloo Facebook group,” the complaint said. Lynam is an Army reservist, while Parshall and Loomis were formerly enlisted in the Navy and Air Force, respectively.
The “boogaloo movement” is linked to loosely organized private Facebook groups, and its name comes from the 1984 movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which has become slang for any bad sequel, according to The Associated Press. The movement uses the term to mean an upcoming civil war. Some white supremacists have been tied to the Boogaloo movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Another derivation of “boogaloo” is “big luau,” and members are often seen at protests carrying firearms and wearing Hawaiian shirts.
The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights has tracked the presence of far-right militias and boogaloo-related groups at 40 protests across the U.S. related to Floyd’s death.
“Violent instigators have hijacked peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country, including Nevada, exploiting the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death for their own radical agendas,” Nicholas Trutanich, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said in the release.
The Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force began investigating the men in April after a confidential informant met Lynam and Parshall at a protest calling to reopen Nevada held at the Sawyer Building in downtown Las Vegas.
The Associated Press has also reported boogaloo members at state capitals during COVID-19 lockdown protests.
“During the rally, Lynam stated that their group was not for joking around and that it was for people who wanted to violently overthrow the United States government,” the complaint said.
Loomis joined the group during a similar protest on May 16, authorities said, and the men attended the protests with firearms, including AR-15s.
Lynam and Parshall initially “wanted some type of confrontation between the police and protesters” during the May 16 protest and were going to set of fireworks and smoke bombs, but the plan was called off, the complaint said.
The men had plans to attack a ranger station near Lake Mead as a “trial run, to test the members of the group.”
But before that plan went into motion, the group heard about Floyd’s death.
George Floyd protests
The group initially planned to use a “firebomb” to create an explosion at a Las Vegas NV Energy substation on May 28 to “create civil unrest and rioting throughout Las Vegas,” the complaint said.
Parshall was seen buying fireworks on May 28, but he later called off the plan. Instead, the men attended the first night of protests on the Strip.
During the demonstration, Parshall was “very upset that the protests were not turning violent,” the complaint said. At one point he “taunted the police by getting in their face and yelling at them.”
The men left the protest after Metropolitan Police Department officers ordered people to disperse.
The next night, the group planned to attend a protest in downtown Las Vegas. A confidential informant and undercover FBI agent saw Parshall explain how to make Molotov cocktails with materials he had.
Lyman said that when burned, tear gas used by police turns into cyanide. He said that if police threw tear gas during the protest, “they could throw the gas back at the police and then throw a Molotov cocktail at them and burn them,” the complaint said.
A SWAT team arrested the men before they could attend the protest, the complaint said. Inside Parshall’s vehicle, officials found Molotov cocktail materials, fireworks, gasoline, a 12-gauge shotgun with shotgun shells and a pistol, the complaint said. Loomis’ vehicle had an AR-15 with six magazines.
The Clark County district attorney’s office has also filed state charges against the men — assisting, soliciting or conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism; providing material support for use in the commission of an act of terrorism; conspiracy to damage or destroy a building by means of explosives; and possession of a component of an explosive or incendiary device with intent to manufacture an explosive incendiary device.
All three men remained in the Clark County Detention Center on Wednesday, each with a $1 million bail, court records show. A preliminary hearing for the state charges is scheduled for June 17.