Colorado man Richard Holzer allegedly had plans to attack the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, Colo., last week. U.S. prosecutors are calling the planned act one of domestic terrorism.
The affidavit, submitted by FBI special agent John W. Smith on Saturday, says undercover agents were able to make contact with and gather evidence against Holzer, whose promotion of anti-Semitic ideology began on Facebook.
The affidavit cites Facebook records that show Holzer promoting white supremacist ideology, denying the Holocaust and calling for the murder of Jews and Latinos. The FBI says Holzer used several different accounts. One of the statements he made to another user said, “I wish the Holocaust really did happen … they need to die.”
Undercover FBI agents first made contact with Holzer online in September. One agent, who posed as a white woman who supported white nationalism, received pictures from Holzer’s accounts of him with images of white supremacy. He also told the undercover agent that he was a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and now a skinhead.
Holzer told the agent that he paid a Mexican cook $70 to “hex and poison” a local synagogue in October 2018. He said he faced backlash from the “white movement” because he worked with a Mexican man, but he said, “You guys really want the Jews gone then sometimes you gotta improvise.”
He said the cook put arsenic in the temple’s water supply, but Smith’s affidavit said he is not aware of any evidence to corroborate this claim.
Holzer told the agent he was preparing for RAHOWA, or racial holy war, and that he was going to scope out the Temple Emanuel synagogue because he planned to poison it Thursday
Later, Holzer and a friend, identified in the documents as “Skeeter,” met in person with three undercover agents to address other ways of attacking the synagogue, including building Molotov cocktails, which Holzer later suggested “would not be enough.” The undercover agents then offered to supply pipe bombs. On Saturday, Holzer went to pick up the inert bombs and was arrested.
He is charged with attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force using explosives and fire.
Temple Emanuel is a small congregation of about 35 families, some of which are descendants of Holocaust survivors, according to The New York Times. It was built in 1900. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says this is the 13th time since last year’s deadly Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh that someone has attempted or threatened anti-Semitic mass killings.
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. had been on the rise, with the ADL’s most recent data marking a nearly 60% uptick in these hate crimes in 2017.
The Times reports Scott Levin, the ADL’s regional director, said the organization had been tracking Holzer’s online activity since May 2016 and had repeatedly alerted authorities about him, though it is unclear exactly when the FBI began tracking Holzer or what alerted them.
Holzer has not yet entered a plea.