Sheriff's deputies remove a spotlight used to help investigators processing evidence at an apartment where Matthew Riehl allegedly fatally shot Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish and wounded six people Dec. 31 in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch. Credit: Colleen Slevin/Associated Press

In this week’s roundup: Young white men with an interest in the far right and white supremacy are connected to killings, white supremacists thrive in the Pacific Northwest and a mosque pays the fines for a man jailed for vandalizing its holy space.

The teenage boy allegedly mowed a 40-foot swastika into a neighborhood lawn. Two months later, his girlfriend’s parents confronted him about a hate-filled Twitter account they believed he controlled. Then he shot and killed them, police say.

The details are sketchy, but The Washington Post spoke with relatives of the slain couple and a detective working on the case, who said the couple reported their daughter’s boyfriend to the private school he attended. Then, in a confrontation Dec. 22, the 17-year-old shot both his girlfriend’s parents and himself. HuffPost later published a story identifying the teen’s social media account.

The double homicide in Reston, Virginia, is a harrowing case. But it is hardly unique.

Young white men with a strong interest in neo-Nazi and far-right thinking have been arrested in or charged with multiple mass shootings and other killings in recent weeks.

About a week after the Virginia shooting, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl shot five sheriff’s deputies, killing one, before he was killed in a shootout with police in Colorado. Riehl had been sharing racist and far-right memes on his Facebook page, homegrown extremism expert JJ MacNab soon discovered.

Two weeks before the Virginia shootings, 21-year-old William Atchison shot and killed two students at a high school in New Mexico before turning the gun on himself. Atchison, the Daily Beast reported, had a long history of frequenting neo-Nazi websites and posting racist and white supremacist content online. In another recent case, a former intern for far-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos is accused of stabbing and killing his father in July after his father called him a Nazi.

National security expert Daryl Johnson examined the recent upsurge in shootings in an analysis for the Southern Poverty Law Center this week. His piece includes recent shootings and killings by various types of domestic extremists, including anti-government activists, who Johnson long has argued pose a greater threat to American lives than other extremists such as Islamist terrorists.

He writes:

Extremist ideology likely provides a foundation for violence because it offers a ready-made list of enemies (such as law enforcement officials), promotes an “us versus them” mentality, creates feelings of isolation, provides justification for violence, and spurs fear and paranoia. This can often lead violence prone perpetrators further down the path of anger, distrust, and depression, which may lead to violent action.   

White supremacists call ‘liberal’ Pacific Northwest home

Oregon’s juxtaposition as a paragon of leftist politics, while also being a stronghold for white supremacists, is a theme we’ve covered before in The Hate Report.

The uneasy cohabitation of neo-Nazis and peaceniks in the town of Eugene was the subject of a story last week in The Oregonian. The newspaper spent time in the liberal college town that also happens to be home to two notorious white supremacists and at least a handful of their supporters.

Here’s a snippet:

The home of the University of Oregon has drawn generations of left-leaning college students and counterculture icons like author Ken Kesey, the namesake of a public plaza downtown. …

But the city, like the state itself, has a dark past marked by troubling displays of white power.

In the 1920s, Eugene boasted an energized chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, which drew its members from local leaders, the middle class and a leading UO classics scholar, Frederick Dunn. The group burned crosses on prominent Skinner Butte and targeted local Catholics, according to a report commissioned in 2016 by the university.

One thing that caught our eye in The Oregonian’s story is the large number of Odinist tattoos sported by Jacob Laskey, one of the white supremacists featured in the article. Laskey has Nordic runes inked on his fingers and a tattoo of Odin’s hammer on the back of his hand.

As we reported last year, Odinism is an ancient Nordic religion that has been increasingly co-opted by white supremacists. Odinism, with its motifs of heroism and dying in battle, has attracted white supremacists who believe that Christianity is a weak religion “tainted” by Jesus’ Jewish heritage. A 2016 story on Idavox.com says Laskey converted to Odinism in prison.  

A black-on-white hate crime

Last month, authorities in Cleveland charged 24-year-old Jermaine Hines Jr., who is black, with punching a 51-year-old white woman without provocation.

Hines allegedly accused the woman of being a white supremacist before assaulting her, the Associated Press reported. He has been charged with a felony ethnic intimidation charge, a hate crime.

Muslim activist called terrorist in New York assault

A New York City Muslim activist claimed in a viral Facebook Live video last week that she was attacked by teenage girls at a Brooklyn restaurant. The girls allegedly rioted through the Panera Bread restaurant and then attacked 51-year-old Souad Kirama, calling her a terrorist.

From Newsweek:

“I was just viciously attacked by a bunch of teenagers,” said Kirama, crying in a Facebook live video that was posted after the attack. “They attacked me, beat me up. And people were just standing there, watching me be beat up, called a fucking terrorist, and nobody did nothing. Nothing. Nobody stood up for me.”

Kirama said she had asked the girls to be quiet before they attacked her.

Mosque pays fines for man who vandalized its property

A mosque in Arkansas has paid off more than $1,700 in fines owed by a man who vandalized the sacred space in 2016, helping him avoid spending more time in jail.  

Abraham Davis was jailed in 2016 for scrawling graffiti on the Masjid Al Salam in Fort Smith. He since has expressed regret for the crime, and the congregation “forgave him long ago,” according to HuffPost.

“He needs to keep going, don’t even look back. The back is gone,” the mosque’s social director, Hisham Yasin, told HuffPost. “I look forward to seeing him work and study and become something in the future. And at that time, he’ll talk about what happened with him … how he flipped his life from bad to good.”

“It’s a great weight being lifted off of my shoulders,” Davis told The New York Times. “And I don’t deserve it, but this act of kindness, it’s just, wow.”

Corrections: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the Reston, Virginia, killings. They occurred Dec. 22. An earlier version of this story also misspelled JJ MacNab’s name.

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Have a hate incident to report? Tell us about it here, or contact the Hate Report team: Aaron Sankin can be reached at asankin@revealnews.org, and Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @asankin and @willcarless.

Will Carless was a correspondent for Reveal covering extremism. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and South America. Prior to joining Reveal, he was a senior correspondent for Public Radio International’s Global Post team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that, Will spent eight years at the Voice of San Diego, where he worked as an investigative reporter and head of investigations. During his tenure in San Diego, Will was awarded several prizes, including a national award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has been a finalist for the Livingston Awards for young journalists twice in the last five years. He surfs, spends time with his family, travels to silly places and pretends he’s writing a novel.