Updated June 15, 2020 - 9:53 am
When Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson sought to persuade a federal judge to put three suspected members of the extremist boogaloo movement behind bars, he provided plenty of ammunition.
A key part of the veteran prosecutor’s argument last week was how the men had plotted to stir up violence at protests and destroy federal buildings as if they were conducting military operations.
They talked in code, wore tactical military gear, carried weapons, possessed explosive materials and conducted reconnaissance missions, Dickinson alleged.
The defendants, who have military backgrounds, wanted to loosely follow the principles of the notorious Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary organization dedicated to liberating Northern Ireland from British rule, he said.
Those principles are contained in the IRA’s Green Book, a training manual written in the 1950s that talked about waging a military war against the British government. The use of explosives was a big part of the IRA’s tactics, which included military troops and police officers among their targets. The group required its members to maintain secrecy and total commitment to its cause.
The right-wing boogaloo movement, which is decentralized with no national leaders, believes in an impending civil war and ultimate societal collapse in the United States.
Trio had plans
Dickinson argued in court that one of the alleged Las Vegas boogaloos, Stephen Parshall, a 35-year-old Navy veteran, had been “radicalized” and “clearly was mobilized to act.”
Another defendant, William Loomis, 40, a postal worker and 13-year Navy veteran, was “angry” and also ready to “take action,” Dickinson said.
Loomis, a former militia member, believed civil war was coming soon, and he likened the growing unrest in the United States to the fall of the Roman Empire, according to Dickinson.
The youngest defendant, Andrew Lynam, 23, told investigators after his arrest that he organized the group, which began on Facebook, and recruited members at Las Vegas ReOpen protests.
“Lynam stated their intent was to cause change in the government using various means up to and including criminal activity,“ a police arrest report states. “Lynam admitted the group engaged in physical training, vetting of members, training and tactics to counter law enforcement and counter surveillance of law enforcement efforts at the protests and rallies.”
The Army reservist apologized to investigators and said he realized his actions were “inappropriate and evolving into potential violence against citizens and law enforcement.”
Loomis also acknowledged his participation in the boogaloo group.
“Loomis said he was searching for an outlet to express his rage, anger and frustration with the current climate within the U.S.,” the arrest report states.
The FBI launched the investigation in April after an informant brought the bureau information about the group’s plans, according to court documents.
The Las Vegas members discussed their affinity for the IRA with the informant while planning to disrupt a ReOpen demonstration in May.
“They indicated they wanted the government to show its hand,” the arrest report states. “In order to do so, they wanted to create a chaotic and confusing scene for the upcoming protest. This would include any type of fireworks, smoke bombs and/or noise makers.”
Eventually, an undercover FBI agent was introduced to the group. The agent appeared at a ReOpen protest on May 16 with the informant and Parshall.
Group members planned to set off devices at the beginning of the protest to cause panic and eventually a confrontation between police and the protesters, according to the report. But they ended up abandoning the plan in favor of efforts to firebomb an NV Energy substation and a federal ranger station at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Those plans also were put on hold as Black Lives Matter protests began in Las Vegas after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The agent was next placed with members of the group on May 30, the day the three men were arrested before the downtown Black Lives Matter protest, court documents show. The FBI had learned that the trio was prepared to toss Molotov cocktails at police.
Dickinson said in court last week that the government has secret recordings of the defendants.
The three men are facing federal explosives and firearms charges as well as local terrorism charges.
Investigators found rags, a gasoline canister, cans of hairspray, fireworks and weapons in Parshall’s truck after he was arrested, according to the police report.
During a search of Lynam’s home, investigators seized handwritten notes of military tactics and possible scouting routes and locations, along with “kill boxes,” survival tactics, fireworks, a bomb and booby traps, the report states.
The search warrant mentions an array of items, including computers, weapons, explosives and a copy of the actual IRA Green Book. Investigators also were looking for Hawaiian shirts and patches belonging to the men. Boogaloo members are known for wearing Hawaiian shirts at public demonstrations while carrying arms. One expert said the practice is a spinoff of a fraternal weekend tradition of military special forces.
Defense lawyers disputed the government’s claims in court last week, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe concluded that Parshall and Loomis were a danger to the community. She ordered both into federal custody.
Dickinson is also seeking federal detention for Lynam, but his hearing was put off until June 16 so Lynam’s lawyers could have more time to prepare.
Koppe found that both Loomis and Lynam could not afford to pay for their defense, so she appointed their lawyers at taxpayer expense.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Support our journalism.