The summer of 2020 was a hinge point in American history. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police inspired racial justice demonstrations nationwide. At the time, the FBI was convinced that extreme Black political activists could cross the line into domestic terrorism – a theory federal agents had first termed “Black identity extremism.”

That summer, Mickey Windecker approached the FBI. He drove a silver hearse, claimed to have been a volunteer fighter for the French Foreign Legion and the Peshmerga in Iraq, and had arrest records in four states that included convictions for misdemeanor sexual assault and menacing with a weapon, a felony. He claimed to the FBI that he had heard racial justice activists speak vaguely of training and violent revolution in Denver. 

The FBI enlisted Windecker as a paid informant, gave him a recording device and instructed him to infiltrate Denver’s growing Black Lives Matter movement. For months, Windecker spied on activists and attempted to recruit two Black men into an FBI-engineered plot to assassinate the state’s attorney general.

Windecker’s undercover work is the first documented case of FBI efforts to infiltrate the 2020 racial justice movement. Journalist Trevor Aaronson obtained over a dozen hours of Windecker’s secret recordings and more than 300 pages of internal FBI reports for season 1 of the podcast series Alphabet Boys

This episode of Reveal is a partnership with Alphabet Boys and production company Western Sound

Dig Deeper

Listen: Season 1 of Alphabet Boys

Read: Denver Settles With Black Lives Matter Protesters for $4.7 Million (The New York Times)

Read: The FBI Targets a New Generation of Black Activists (Brennan Center for Justice)

Read: FBI Enlisted Proud Boys Leader to Inform on Antifa, Lawyer Says (Associated Press)

Read: FBI Informant Testifies at Proud Boys Sedition Trial – For the Defense (The Washington Post)

Read: ‘Go After the Troublemakers’ (Reveal)


Reporter: Trevor Aaronson | Producer: Nicole McNulty | Editors: Colin McNulty and Brett Myers, with help from Kate Howard | Fact checker and production assistant: Eleanor Knight | Production managers: Steven Rascón and Zulema Cobb | Digital producer: Nikki Frick | Original score: Alex MacInnis | Sound design: Alex MacInnis and Dan Leone, with help from Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda | Interim executive producers: Taki Telonidis and Brett Myers | Host: Al Letson | Special thanks to Western Sound Executive Producer Ben Adair, who helped create Alphabet Boys.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Park Foundation.


Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal’s radio stories is the audio.

Al Letson:From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. On May 25th 2020, the country seemed to shift. A Black man, George Floyd, was killed in Minneapolis. And like an earthquake that set off a tsunami, a wave of racial justice protests swept the nation. Of all the demonstrations around the country that year, Denver, Colorado, saw some of the biggest, most intense protests.  
Speaker 18:We’ve been watching as fences are smashed, torn down, protestors starting fires and building umbrella barricades.  
Al Letson:Thousands demonstrated outside the Colorado State Capitol chanting a phrase synonymous with Black men dying at the hands of police officers.  
Speaker 17:I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.  
Al Letson:Some of the Denver protests became violent and destructive. Police fired pepper spray and rubber bullets into crowds, injuring dozens. But the protestors just kept coming out, undaunted.  
Speaker 19:Day 10 of protests across Denver, nearly a week after police used tear gas and pepper balls to disperse protesters outside…  
Al Letson:And then one night, a new guy showed up at the protest driving a big silver hearse. Straightaway, he began to establish himself with the leaders and eventually he would transform Denver’s racial justice protests. Today. We’re partnering with the podcast Alphabet Boys from Western Sound and journalist Trevor Aaronson, who got a hold of secret recordings that reveals surprising details about that guy in the silver hearse, what he did at these protests and who he was working for. Trevor takes his story from here.  
Trevor Aaronson:That new guy who shows up at the protests stands out. He’s a white guy wearing military fatigues with patches and stripes that he claims to have earned fighting the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq in Syria. He has a cigar dangling from his lips and on the back window of a silver hearse is a sticker reading Peshmerga, the Kurdish military force.  
Zebb Hall:And inside of his hearse was a lot of guns, like AR fifteens and all other kind of (beep).  
Trevor Aaronson:This is Zebb Hall. He was a regular at the Denver protests.  
Zebb Hall:Yeah, it was just this dude talking about he worked in the foreign military. He was for the Black Lives Matter movement. He just seemed like some authoritarian figure, this powerful figure that was there. He was very convincing, but he did explain he was part of bad biker gangs. He had committed a ton of violence, but he was for this BLM movement.  
Trevor Aaronson:And here’s another regular at the Denver protest, Bryce Shelby.  
Bryce Shelby:He walked up with a body cam on me.  
Trevor Aaronson:Bryce says the hearse dude was walking around with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest.  
Bryce Shelby:I didn’t think nothing about the body cam just because, I don’t know, there was just a lot of things going on, I guess.  
Trevor Aaronson:And straight away, Bryce says the guy starts bragging about doing time in prison.  
Bryce Shelby:I guess he deescalated any type of suspicion because he’d start flashing his prison badge. You know what I mean? Like, okay, he’s not… This guy ain’t FA. You walking around with a prison badge.  
Trevor Aaronson:Around the time this mysterious character starts showing up, the protests in Denver are stagnating. They’re becoming this cat and mouse game between demonstrators and cops, people coming out in mostly peaceful ways, cops coming out with riot gear and overwhelming force. Protestors like Bryce and Zebb, they’re getting frustrated. They want change. Something more needs to happen, something new. And then something new does happen. Here’s Zebb.  
Zebb Hall:I was like, “Hey, this guy, he wants to train people how to defend themselves and use the weapons and he’ll show me how to do it as well.”  
Trevor Aaronson:A guy with real military experiences here, he’s a commanding presence. He’s going to take things to the next level. This guy is known to the protestors simply as Mickey. His full name is Michael Adam Windecker II.  
Scott Dahlstrom:Okay, it is August 28th 2020 at approximately 4:02 PM. Special agent Scott Dahlstrom with special agent Byron Mitchell, CHS for meet with Zebbedias Hall.  
Mickey Windecke…:Thank you.  
Scott Dahlstrom:You can hear this if I put it in my front pocket, right?  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah.  
Scott Dahlstrom:Okay, got it.  
Trevor Aaronson:It’s late afternoon on a warm day in Denver, Colorado. It’s drizzling outside and Mickey is sitting in the backseat of an FBI car. Two federal agents are with him and one of them, FBI special agent Scott Dahlstrom, has just handed Mickey a small hidden camera. Mickey turns the camera to his face shooting from an unflattering angle below his chin. You can see Mickey’s thin red mustache and scraggly goatee that’s turning gray. He’s propped his large sunglasses on his forehead and he’s looking straight down into the tiny camera lens. Mickey is not ready for his closeup.  
Mickey Windecke…:Video look good?  
Scott Dahlstrom:Yep.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah? Look handsome?  
Scott Dahlstrom:Mm-hmm.  
Mickey Windecke…:Not as handsome as that kid.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey points to someone outside walking past the car and then he opens the car door to leave.  
Scott Dahlstrom:Good luck.  
Mickey Windecke…:All right, see you guys shortly.  
Trevor Aaronson:The FBI agents tell him to remember his instructions, which were given to him before the camera started recording.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yep, I got it. Thanks, mom. Thanks, Dad.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey then walks to his car, the silver hearse, and places the FBI’s camera on the passenger seat. Mickey looks down toward the camera and addresses the FBI agents, who are watching the live feed remotely.  
Mickey Windecke…:I got a song for you guys.  
Trevor Aaronson:This song is on a playlist Mickey’s put together, inspired by his work for the FBI. Mickey’s an informant, or in the FBI’s term of art, confidential human source. Mickey’s getting paid thousands of dollars every few weeks, cash. And Mickey, he’s got a very specific assignment from his employers at the FBI: to infiltrate the racial justice movement. As the song ends, Mickey again looks down toward the FBI camera.  
Mickey Windecke…:America.  
Trevor Aaronson:Today, the FBI has more than 15,000 registered informants. The public has no idea what most of these informants are doing. Mickey’s undercover recordings provide us with a rare look inside. FBI reports about Mickey’s work as an informant refer to racial justice demonstrators as anti-government extremists, which is one of the ideologies the FBI classifies as domestic terrorism. During the Trump administration, the FBI and the Justice Department came up with a new catchall category to define a type of domestic terrorism from Black Americans. They called it Black identity extremism, a new and rising form, in the FBI’s view, of anti-government extremism.  
 In 2017, the FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Division released a 12-page intelligence report that claimed Black identity extremists were motivated by police brutality to target law enforcement officers with violence and even murder. The FBI’s evidence for this theory of rising Black political violence was pretty thin, resting on a series of a half dozen crimes committed by Black Americans over a three-year period that had no apparent connection with one another and no unifying political ideology. The revelation that the FBI had come up with a Black identity extremism category for domestic terrorism was met with widespread criticism in the news media and on Capitol Hill.  
Corey Booker:Director Ray, thanks so much for being here. I’d like to go into a subject matter where you and I have discussed before, individually and with the Congressional Black Caucus and others…  
Trevor Aaronson:In 2019, Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey questioned FBI Director Christopher Ray about why the bureau was so focused on so-called Black identity extremism, given that Americans at the time were seeing increasing violence from white supremacists and other far right groups.  
Corey Booker:That’s what I want to drill down on. We know from a declassified joint intelligence briefing from 2000 to 2016 that white supremacist extremists were responsible for more homicides than any other domestic extremist group.  
Trevor Aaronson:Ray answers that the Bureau doesn’t target people based on identity or ideology.  
Christopher Ray:We only investigate violence. We don’t investigate extremism. We don’t investigate ideology. We don’t investigate rhetoric. It doesn’t matter how repugnant, how abhorrent, or whatever it is. It’s about the violence, not about the ideology.  
Trevor Aaronson:Director Ray then disclosed, for the first time, that the FBI had abandoned the term Black identity extremism.  
Corey Booker:And forgive me, this is news to me. So you no longer use the Black identity extremism. That’s no more.  
Christopher Ray:Correct.  
Corey Booker:That’s great news. So nobody’s being surveilled or investigated on the Black identity extremism.  
Christopher Ray:We don’t use that terminology anymore.  
Trevor Aaronson:“We don’t use that terminology anymore,” Ray said, but he didn’t answer the other part of Senator Booker’s question. Were people still being surveilled and investigated as suspected of being Black identity extremists? And the answer to that question was, and is, yes.  
Al Letson:When we come back, undercover FBI informant, Mickey Windecker, starts dropping not so subtle hints about how protestors can transition from ideology to violence.  
Mickey Windecke…:If Bryce is planning on, “Okay, I want to blow up a courthouse,” I need to know what the game fighters are, I’m going to shoot up an Attorney General so I can tell my dude, “This is what’s up.”  
Al Letson:That’s coming up after the break. You’re listening to Reveal. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Today, we’re partnering with the podcast Alphabet Boys and reporter Trevor Aaronson to look into how the FBI infiltrated racial justice demonstrations in 2020. Earlier, we told you about Mickey Windecker, who showed up at Denver’s protest driving a silver hearse, which demonstrators say was filled with weapons. Mickey was working as a confidential informant for the FBI and he was about to take the operation to the next level. Here’s Trevor.  
Trevor Aaronson:I’ve obtained more than 300 pages of internal FBI reports about Mickey Windecker’s work in Denver, as well as hours and hours of undercover recordings of Mickey goading protestors into violence. I’ve also interviewed dozens of activists who encountered Mickey while he was secretly working for the FBI. The FBI documents and recordings reveal, for the first time, how federal law enforcement attempted to infiltrate and undermine the racial justice movement during the summer of 2020. FBI agents described Mickey in internal records as something of a good Samaritan, a kind of volunteer Captain America. But other bureau documents detail Mickey’s criminal history.  
 He’s been arrested in Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Florida for various alleged crimes and he’s been convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and menacing with a weapon, a felony. His court records also reveal a pattern of pretending to be a police officer. While being paid by the FBI during the summer of 2020, Mickey posed as an activist. He accused real activist leaders of being informants. And amid the chaos he created, Mickey became a kind of leader of the Denver racial justice movement. Here earned a nickname: the Drill Sergeant.  
Speaker 21:Come on, Drill Sergeant.  
Mickey Windecke…:I can’t hear you.  
Trevor Aaronson:In the last week of August 2020, Mickey led protests that became full on assaults against police buildings, resulting in dozens of injuries to protesters and police officers. But his undercover work with the FBI was expanding further to target specific activists. One afternoon, Mickey meets with Zebb Hall and Bryce Shelby at Famous Dave’s, a chain barbecue restaurant.  
Speaker 22:Hi, how you doing?  
Mickey Windecke…:Pretty good, how are you?  
Trevor Aaronson:Good. How many you got today?  
Mickey Windecke…:There’s going to be three of us, but I [inaudible 00:13:46] loud music and all that.  
Speaker 22:I can turn it down, but I don’t believe I have…  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey’s asked for a table for three and of course, since he’s secretly recording this for the FBI, he’s also requested for the restaurant’s music to be turned down. It’s about 15 minutes later, the activist Bryce Shelby shows up.  
Mickey Windecke…:What are you up to?  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey’s arranged this lunch to bring Bryce and Zebb together, trying to find a way to set them up on federal criminal charges. Neither Zebb nor Bryce has been involved in violence at the protest. Mickey and the FBI know this. The FBI is targeting them for things they’ve said. Zebb has talked vaguely about combat training and revolution, and Bryce has reputation for giving inflammatory speeches with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Mickey tells both men over lunch that he’s got a guy coming to town, an outlaw biker who will help them with whatever they need.  
Mickey Windecke…:Okay, so nobody can hear us so we’re all talking. Okay, so I talked to my dude, he’s on board. What he’s going to do, he’s coming in Tuesday, so we have to figure out where we’ll meet at. Nowhere like this on Tuesday. He’ll walk you through what the game plan is.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey then starts to encourage Zebb and Bryce to come up with a plan, but he warns, they can’t bring anybody else in. It’s got to remain super secret. “Don’t tell anyone what we’re talking about.” And a warning, these guys swear a lot in these recordings.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, but let me tell you something. I’m going to be real with you a second, okay? And I’m going to put it as an outlaw biker point of view. When you bring too many (beep) people in, somebody’s going to talk.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah.  
Trevor Aaronson:The waiter comes to the table and Mickey, Bryce, and Zebb stop their tough guy talk and order food, as if nothing’s going on. Mickey says he’s buying.  
Speaker 9:You ready to get some food going, guys?  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, yeah, yeah.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey orders ribs with beans and mashed potatoes.  
Mickey Windecke…:I want to do ribs.  
Trevor Aaronson:Zebb orders the same. And Bryce says, “I’ll take a chicken sandwich.”  
Speaker 9:All right, anything else, guys?  
Mickey Windecke…:And garlic toast for me.  
Speaker 9:Okay. Instead of the muffins?  
Mickey Windecke…:No, I don’t like muffins. I hate muffins.  
Zebb Hall:What?  
Mickey Windecke…:Thank you, man.  
Speaker 9:No worries. Holler if need anything?  
Mickey Windecke…:Cool, cool.  
Trevor Aaronson:Once the waiter leaves, the talk picks back up.  
Zebb Hall:Why can’t I build up over time, an anger and resentment and then just throw up some vent? And we go to a rich neighborhood and I cannot control what the people do.  
Trevor Aaronson:“Why can’t I grow anger over time,” Zebb says, “and then create a demonstration in a rich neighborhood? If people get violent, well, I can’t control people.” That appears to be the extent of Zebb’s recipe for revolution. And that’s not good enough for Mickey.  
Mickey Windecke…:But which rich neighborhood are you thinking of?  
Zebb Hall:Think of it over time. You got six months.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, but you got to remember, my guy doesn’t have six months.  
Zebb Hall:I want him to teach me.  
Mickey Windecke…:I don’t know, man. You’ll have to talk to him. But the thing I’m telling you is, this guy’s an old (beep) type of cat. I mean, if y’all are trying to do (beep), he’s going to help you with it, but you got to understand, this guy’s an no (beep) around type of dude. You know what I mean? And it’s like… I mean, you look at Bryce’s plan, Bryce is talking about immediate action, news flash. I mean, what do you think, Bryce?  
Bryce Shelby:I hear what Zebb’s saying because he was…  
Trevor Aaronson:Bryce says he feels like they’re running out of time. The cops are kicking their butts. Something more needs to be done, and soon. And Mickey encourages a more specific plan. Blow up a courthouse maybe, or shoot the Attorney General.  
Mickey Windecke…:I’ll put to you like this. Let me just be real with you for a second. At the end of the day, it’s cool. Whatever your game plan is, I mean, I’m not going to sit there and tell you, “You should do this,” and “You should do that.” I’m not going to say that, okay? But you need to have an objective of what you’re going to do. I mean, if Bryce is planning on, “Okay, I want to blow up a courthouse,” I need to know what the game fighters are. I’m going to shoot up the Attorney General so I could tell my dude, “This is what’s up.” Because if I tell my dude, “Yeah, they’re going to come out and hang out for nine months and they want to do some training-”  
Bryce Shelby:I don’t think we got that much time.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey says he needs to give his contact, the outlaw biker guy, some sort of action plan. Otherwise, this is all just talk going nowhere. Zebb won’t commit to anything concrete. So Mickey describes how Bryce has a scheme in mind that they could all get behind. Bryce has the home address of an important elected official. And well, what if that politician winds up dead? Shot as he’s getting out of his car or leaving the house.  
Mickey Windecke…:So question is, are you cool with Bryce doing what he needs to do?  
Zebb Hall:I don’t give a (beep). If he’s going to do it, do it.  
Mickey Windecke…:Okay.  
Zebb Hall:Do it.  
Bryce Shelby:I got the DA’s address.  
Trevor Aaronson:“I got the DA’s address, “Bryce says, referring to the District Attorney.  
Mickey Windecke…:Well, you mean the Attorney General, not the DA.  
Bryce Shelby:That’s even better. That’s even better.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah.  
Bryce Shelby:My thing is…  
Trevor Aaronson:It’s clear from this conversation that Bryce doesn’t know that the District Attorney and the Attorney General are two different people, two different elected positions. Over lunch at Famous Dave’s, Mickey tries to steer Bryce toward a specific plot and a specific person, an assassination of Colorado’s Attorney General.  
Mickey Windecke…:So you’re thinking for sure that the AG?  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah. Somebody who you know, something that will send a message.  
Mickey Windecke…:Right.  
Trevor Aaronson:Then the discussion takes a very weird turn. Zebb, listening to everything and wanting to be part of the conversation, begins to suggest that they should figure out a way to use Denver’s sewer systems to move around the city as if they’re, I don’t know, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, but where’s the sewer at?  
Zebb Hall:They’re all under us.  
Trevor Aaronson:Where?  
Zebb Hall:They’re all under us.  
Trevor Aaronson:“Let’s use the sewers,” Zebb says. “But where are the sewers?” Mickey asks. “They’re all under us, “Zebb replies.  
Mickey Windecke…:But who’s sewers are you talking about? The governor, the police chief, the mayor.  
Zebb Hall:The mayor.  
Mickey Windecke…:The mayor? I don’t even know where the (beep) he lives.  
Trevor Aaronson:The conversation continues like this, an absurd discussion of sewers. And the three men finish eating and walk outside of the restaurant and into the parking lot. Mickey is clearly annoyed and wants to steer his targets away from Zebb’s ludicrous idea to launch the revolution from Denver’s sewer system and toward Bryce’s nascent plan to kill an elected official. Mickey says he’s got to let his contact know what’s up, and soon.  
Mickey Windecke…:So I’m going to let him know. Who do you want to get then?  
Bryce Shelby:Attorney General.  
Mickey Windecke…:Okay. All right, I’ll make a call.  
Bryce Shelby:All right.  
Mickey Windecke…:Cool. Appreciate you, bro.  
Zebb Hall:All ready. Everybody drive safe.  
Mickey Windecke…:You have a way to get back? You good?  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, I’m good.  
Mickey Windecke…:Okay. Play it slow, you know what I mean? Black power.  
Bryce Shelby:All ready, y’all.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, all right.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey gets in his silver hearse and sums up his meeting with Zebb and Bryce.  
Mickey Windecke…:What a dumpster fire.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey’s playing Fleetwood Mac on the car stereo. After a short drive, he gets out of the hearse and walks over to meet with the FBI agents, who are sitting in their black sedan. Mickey taps on the car window. FBI Agent Scott Dahlstrom opens the door and Mickey hands him the recording device.  
Mickey Windecke…:Attorney General is your target.  
Trevor Aaronson:“Attorney General is your target,” Mickey tells the agents. The FBI now appears to have a serious investigation in Denver, a plot to assassinate a statewide elected official. A few days later, Mickey’s supposed outlaw biker buddy pulls into town. Mickey’s friend is wearing a hidden camera.  
Red:Denver, Colorado. Today is August 25th at approximately 2:50 PM.  
Trevor Aaronson:This guy isn’t really Mickey’s friend. He’s an FBI special agent, and he goes by the nickname Red.  
Red:What happened?  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey walks up to the car, Red rolls down his window and he notices Mickey’s broken finger.  
Red:What’d you do to that thing?  
Mickey Windecke…:I went to Sturgis, some drunk driver hit me on his (beep) bike. Just clipped my handlebars and my wrist. That was it.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey then walks over to his car and Red seems to think Mickey looks ridiculous as he gets behind the wheel of his silver hearse.  
Red:Holy (beep).  
Trevor Aaronson:A few minutes later, Red pulls into the parking lot of a TGI Fridays. Mickey walks up to him again.  
Mickey Windecke…:He’s pretty laid back, but he’s kind of (beep). You’ll see. He’s kind of mental (beep) in some ways.  
Trevor Aaronson:“He’s kind of mental in some ways.” Mickey means Bryce Shelby, the activist with the vague plot to assassinate Colorado’s Attorney General. Mickey, the FBI’s informant, and Red, the FBI’s undercover agent, walk into a TGI Fridays.  
Mickey Windecke…:What’s up? What’s you up to?  
Bryce Shelby:Fine.  
Zebb Hall:What’s good, bro?  
Mickey Windecke…:Right on.  
Bryce Shelby:Mark.  
Zebb Hall:What’s up?  
Bryce Shelby:Who’s your brother? Another day, man.  
Mickey Windecke…:Hey Bryce, this is my brother, Red. Red, this is Bryce.  
Bryce Shelby:Juice, man. They call me Juice.  
Bryce Shelby:That’s my rain name.  
Mickey Windecke…:[inaudible 00:23:50] Red.  
Trevor Aaronson:Yeah. Bryce tells the FBI undercover agent his nickname is Juice. “They call me Juice,” he says.  
Speaker 23:Can I get you something to drink, man?  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, let me get a strawberry lemonade.  
Speaker 23:Strawberry lemonade. Be right back.  
Bryce Shelby:Okay. Cool, cool.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey then starts telling Bryce about his friend Red and how his fellow members of the Special Forces community vouch for him.  
Mickey Windecke…:He’s legit. He’s asked my boy, he’s going to help with your dreams come true.  
Bryce Shelby:I don’t even know what we’re fighting. I just know that these people that run (beep) are not for us. I’m some regular Joe civilian, but if I see this coming, I’m not just going to stand by. This is my family that could be next. I got the District Attorney’s address.  
Red:The who?  
Mickey Windecke…:Attorney General.  
Bryce Shelby:I keep always saying District Attorney. The Attorney General. I don’t even know.  
Trevor Aaronson:Bryce is still confusing the two positions, the two different elected officials, the District Attorney and the Attorney General.  
Bryce Shelby:Nobody knows that we’re here besides me and him.  
Trevor Aaronson:Alright.  
Bryce Shelby:None of my people from my circle, none of my people from his circle that I know of, unless you told somebody. I didn’t.  
Trevor Aaronson:No.  
Bryce Shelby:I haven’t said nothing to nobody. I gang banged so this is another mission.  
Trevor Aaronson:Red suggested Bryce that they take a drive to scout out the Attorney General’s house.  
Red:All right, well, I think we ought to roll by there.  
Bryce Shelby:Okay. I got the address.  
Red:If you’re good with it.  
Bryce Shelby:I’m with it.  
Red:You’re call, but let’s see what the options are at that point, right?  
Trevor Aaronson:I since asked Bryce about this supposed assassination plot. He told me he didn’t even know who the Attorney General was.  
Bryce Shelby:He was really basically asking me what would be my plan, how would I do it? I was really just saying movie (beep). Cut his lights off, kicking the door. I don’t got no real plan to do this (beep).  
Trevor Aaronson:So I think a listener would say, “Well, why did you talk about it?”  
Bryce Shelby:I guess… I don’t know, that’s just how you feel at a moment, like, “I’m going to kill that (beep). You’ve said that about a lot of people that pissed you off in life, listeners. You ain’t never killed them for real, have you?  
Trevor Aaronson:This assassination plot, though, ends up being a little more than talk. Bryce had the Attorney General’s home address. He said he got it from another demonstrator who, trying to be provocative, had read off a bunch of elected officials home addresses during his speech. So Red, the undercover agent, suggests they drive out to the house, maybe come up with a more concrete plan. Bryce agrees to go. On the ride over, they keep talking and Bryce is acting like a tough guy.  
Red:So what are you thinking? I mean, let’s just put it this way. If you could have it any way you wanted.  
Bryce Shelby:Just catch that (beep) popping out of his car. Because originally I was thinking shut the power off and come through the window or something like that.  
Red:No, you’re talking about Rambo.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, but then I got to thinking that’s too much. I got a big rifle I got to hold. You know what I mean? I think about back to forensics tracing versus not getting none of that on you at all. Hop out the car. You know what I mean? Pop him, bam.  
Red:You’re still talking about forensics right there.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, but that’s a lot less forensics, though.  
Red:I see what you’re saying.  
Trevor Aaronson:The FBI agent is being generous here for the sake of the undercover sting. Bryce is talking a bunch of nonsense. Bryce then begins to describe to Red how he wasn’t interested in any sort of violence when he first started protesting. Mickey, he says, pushed him in that direction  
Speaker 14:And when I met Mickey, that was literally the first thing he said. He was like, “We’re at an impasse.” A lot of people thought he was a cop and then me and him started talking. Then he pulled out his prison ID. I was like, “Yeah, this ain’t no cop, for sure.”  
Trevor Aaronson:Red then asked Bryce what he knows about the guy whose house they’re driving to.  
Red:What do you know about this guy’s… Attorney General. What do you know about his family?  
Bryce Shelby:I think he has one kid and a wife, but those might just be relatives. Like, on voter registration, it doesn’t say who’s what. I think he has one kid and a wife. I don’t know how old his kid is either.  
Red:How old is he?  
Bryce Shelby:Mid to early 40s. Early to mid-40s I guess I should say.  
Red:How long has he been in office?  
Bryce Shelby:I think about four years. I want to say about four years. Four or five.  
Trevor Aaronson:Okay, I want to pause for a minute because Bryce, he gets almost everything wrong about Colorado’s Attorney General, a guy named Phil Weiser. Phil Weiser is married, that much is true. But he has two children, not one. At the time, Bryce and Red are having this conversation, Weiser is 52 years old, not in his early to mid-40s. And he was elected in 2018, and as this conversation is happening, has been in office for less than two years, not as Bryce says, four or five years. Anyway, back to the car ride.  
Red:So the question I asked earlier, in a perfect situation, what happens?  
Bryce Shelby:He hops out the car. I’d say maybe about 100 yards away, if that, if we could park somewhere close, that’d be great. If not, I ain’t worried about it. Because you could do a nice little sprint before anybody ever sees anything.  
Red:Got to figure everybody’s got cameras.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, yeah. But I say in a perfect situation, hop out the car, he’s getting his briefcase in the backseat or whatever, light him up a couple times. Aim for the head, God damn it. Jesus Christ.  
Trevor Aaronson:This is about when they pull into the neighborhood.  
Speaker 14:We pulled in front of it. We pulled in front of the school, actually, and sat in the parking lot, I don’t know, 150 yards away from the house.  
Trevor Aaronson:Bryce and Red are looking at the house.  
Red:I don’t know. What do you think?  
Bryce Shelby:Figure out a schedule. I’m going to have to come by here probably with my homegirl.  
Red:I think if you think you’re going to sit outside here, catch them leaving, I don’t know, bro.  
Bryce Shelby:What about coming home?  
Red:You got to figure, comes home, he does this. The garage door goes up, he drives inside, he does this, the garage door goes down. I mean, I think there’s a better chance of accomplishing your goal with something else, right? Mick told me, and maybe he’s wrong, but he told me that one of your big concerns was making sure you didn’t get caught.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, of course. Live to fight another day. I want to see the results of if this worked or not, of course.  
Bryce Shelby:I’m going to have to figure out which car he drives and just see where he goes from a day-to-day basis. You know what I mean? Trail him. I’m going to have to trail him. I wasn’t going to start doing none of this until I got back in town from Kentucky.  
Trevor Aaronson:At this point, while he’s talking like some hitman, Bryce is backing out ever so subtly. He says he can’t do anything soon because he’ll be traveling. So Red suggests another possibility. He’s got connections. They could hire someone to kill the Attorney General.  
Red:It’s going to cost him to put it together. That’s all I’m saying.  
Trevor Aaronson:What are we looking at, figure-wise?  
Red:Five, 600 bucks.  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, I figured that.  
Red:Somewhere in there.  
Trevor Aaronson:Red and Bryce then drive back to the TGI Fridays where Bryce’s car is parked. On the way back, Bryce confuses again, the Attorney General with the District Attorney.  
Bryce Shelby:Do DA’s house? I mean, do Attorney General’s house and security?  
Red:I’m sure it’s at the building. I don’t know if they got him personal protective details or anything.  
Trevor Aaronson:What Red didn’t know at this point is, Bryce is onto him. Bryce doesn’t know a lot of things, that’s for sure. He certainly doesn’t know much about his elected officials, but Bryce knows this. Five or 600 bucks? No way you can find a hitman to kill an elected official for five or 600 bucks.  
Bryce Shelby:And I’m just kind of like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll let you know.” You know what I mean? Like, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll get right on it. I got you. Yep I’m going to call you. Yep, yep. You stupid, bro. I’m going to hit you, though.” I’m not calling you, bro.  
Trevor Aaronson:Bryce, he knows. Something is very off.  
Al Letson:When we come back, Trevor goes looking for Mickey.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, this is Michael Windecker. I do not work for the FBI. I’ve never worked for the FBI. You get proof of me working for the FBI, then I’ll say otherwise.  
Al Letson:That’s next on Reveal. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. Today, we’re partnering with the podcast Alphabet Boys to tell you about how the FBI conducted an undercover investigation in 2020 to target racial justice protesters in Denver, including Bryce Shelby. When we left off, Bryce was growing suspicious that maybe Red and Mickey aren’t who they say they are. Reporter Trevor Aaronson picks up the story with what happens next.  
Trevor Aaronson:So Bryce, as you’re probably figuring, doesn’t assassinate Colorado’s Attorney General or even try to, but his rhetoric, it’s troubling. He did talk about killing a politician. Bryce said, “Just shoot him as he gets out his car.” It’s on tape, secretly recorded by the FBI. I’ve seen this kind of behavior a lot in undercover stings. The targets of the investigation, talking and acting like the undercovers who are, in turn, acting like bad guys. Terrorists, drug dealers, money, whatever. Humans have a tendency to mimic the behavior of people in their social groups. We all do this, some more than others. But in undercover stings, there tends to be an amplifying effect. The targets of the sting either want to impress the undercovers or they’re scared of the undercover agents and so they talk and act more like bad guys. Bryce is doing this. For example, when Mickey and Red talked to Bryce about guns, he told them that his guns were illegal, but that isn’t true.  
Bryce Shelby:I was maintaining the image with them. I bought my (beep) in pawn stores. I mean, I was floating to them. You know what I mean? I’m gang banging and whoop de whoop de woo. I’m Crips. I ain’t got no tattoos nowhere on my God damn body. And not that that means anything because gang members that don’t have no tattoos at all, but I’m not in the gang book. I’m never been arrested with people, but I was telling them that. I’m thinking, again, these are mercenaries and hit man. So we talking killer talk more or less.  
Trevor Aaronson:You’re playing the part?  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah. And then when them (beep) like, “Yeah, that’ll be 500. I got you,” well, first off, running in the streets, you killing a political figure for way more than that. I’m just saying straight up. You killing somebody big like that for way more than $500.  
Trevor Aaronson:So you knew it was suspicious right away just because the price was so out of line?  
Bryce Shelby:Yeah, grossly. You selling yourself grossly. That’s some M’S. For an M like that, that’s some M’s. Just being real.  
Trevor Aaronson:By M’s, Bryce means millions. A murder like this would cost millions, not $500. After they drive over to the Attorney General’s house and discuss how they might kill him, Bryce says he never talks to Mickey or Red again, a claim that is supported by court records. All of the evidence against Bryce stops here.  
Bryce Shelby:And they tried to call me and (beep) like that, but I ain’t recognized the number.  
Trevor Aaronson:You just ghosted him at that point?  
Bryce Shelby:I wasn’t… I’m not doing this. I know it’s not going to end the way I want it to end. “Okay. All right, you killed a couple of our people. All right, we’re going to change all laws, give you all reparations.” Yeah, no, that’s not going to change anything. It’s going to piss them off more. “We’re really going to start killing Black people more.” Yeah.  
Trevor Aaronson:The racial justice protests in Denver were prompted not only by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that year, but also by the death of Elijah McLean, a young Black man in a suburb of Denver who was injected with a lethal dose of ketamine after being stopped by police the year before. Bryce Shelby and other activists in Denver tell me that they saw the summer of 2020 as a potential turning point and the protests as deeply American, rooted in the country’s founding principles.  
Bryce Shelby:I feel like America wants us to just be quiet and let it happen, but that’s so un-American. This country was started by (beep) who didn’t want to pay 10 cents or 13 cents or whatever on some tea. They started a whole (beep) war separated from their country, their motherland over some tea. I’m wrong for wanting… I guess as the government will put it, I’m wrong for wanting to go to war because you’re killing us for small egregious reasons? I think I’m more American than you son of a (beep) then.  
Trevor Aaronson:Several months after he first introduced himself to activists in Denver, Mickey Windecker’s undercover operation comes to a close. He’s recorded dozens of activists, he goated some of them into violence at protests. And he’s even convinced one activist, Zebb Hall, to buy him a gun using money secretly provided by the FBI. Mickey is a convicted felon, so Zebb buying him a gun is a serious crime. Then the feds, with the help of local officials, go after Bryce.  
Bryce Shelby:Well, they showed up at my house. They showed up at the park that I was at with my girlfriend and her daughter, and they showed up at my best friend’s house. They said I was under investigation for pretty much saying I was going to murder the Attorney General.  
Trevor Aaronson:This was on November 3rd 2020, the same day of the presidential election, and Bryce says the cops seemed on edge.  
Bryce Shelby:So they patted me down and it was really light. First off, for your listeners, I’m not trying to be amusement or poke fun or no (beep) like that, but it was almost like they were still scared in whatever way. It was like they were still afraid like something still… You know what I mean? It was weird.  
Trevor Aaronson:They take Bryce’s assault rifle from his home, but they don’t arrest him. Bryce isn’t being charged with a crime. Instead, local prosecutors use the evidence the FBI collected to ask a court to take away Bryce’s gun for a year under Colorado’s so-called Red Flag law. Bryce is a potential threat to the community, prosecutors argue. Local media run with a story.  
Speaker 15:His name is Bryce Jordan Shelby, and this is his mugshot from 2011.  
Trevor Aaronson:Law enforcement officials present Bryce’s case as if the assassination plot was something a lot more than it was. This is from the local Fox affiliate, KDVR.  
Speaker 16:… As accused as Bryce Jordan Sidney Shelby of surveilling Attorney General Phil Weiser’s home.  
Speaker 15:But the 29-year-old is now accused of plotting to shoot Attorney General Phil Weiser in the head.  
Speaker 16:… Accused of planning to shoot the state’s top law enforcement official in the head and “does not care if AG Weiser’s wife, dog, or children have to die in the process.”  
Trevor Aaronson:To be sure, what Bryce talked about doing was bad, really bad. But talk is all it was. Confused talk about the District Attorney, I mean Attorney General, bluster. And little semblance of a plan. A plan after all that Mickey, the undercover FBI informant, was the first to suggest. In a court hearing, a Denver police detective testifies that the FBI had reached what he called an impasse and had not been able to build a prosecutable criminal case against Bryce. But a judge agrees to confiscate Bryce’s firearms for a year.  
Bryce Shelby:Probably gets a little blurred because I did say certain things. So that’s… Whatever their… Some way to put it for intent. You know what I mean? But yeah, not going through with any kind of plan payments and (beep) like that. Yeah, no. You know what I mean? No.  
Trevor Aaronson:Is Mickey still working for the FBI? I’ve been trying to answer that question. The FBI press office declined to make anyone available for an interview and refused to provide written responses to a list of questions I sent. While reporting this story, I met with a lot of people who knew Mickey. Most were terrified of him and many didn’t want to be recorded or have their names revealed. Several of these people told me the same thing. Mickey isn’t in Denver any longer. But then I got this one tip. My best chance of finding him? Go to his old apartment. The guy who lives there, I was told, is Mickey’s close friend. Hello? I can see inside through the closed screen door. The apartment is a mess. Piles of stuff everywhere with strangely, several vacuum cleaners lined up against the wall. One of the bedroom doors is closed and no one’s responding. So I write a note to leave along with my business card and say, “I’m interested in speaking with Mickey about his work for the FBI.” And I leave. And later that evening, I get a surprise when Mickey actually calls me. But I missed the call and it goes to voicemail.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, this is Michael Windecker.  
Trevor Aaronson:This is the voicemail in its entirety.  
Speaker 16:I’m letting you know right now, that address you went to and posting that piece of paper saying that I worked for the FBI and (beep), I don’t live there. I haven’t lived there in months, but if you post something, a story about me saying supposedly I worked for the FBI, I will sue the (beep) out of you.  
 I will take you to court and I will break you off in court for defamation and character of slander. I’ve already notified my attorney about this. My previous landlord notified me and sent me these papers that you put on the old door I used to live at stating that I worked for the FBI. I do not work for the FBI. I’ve never worked for the FBI. You get proof of me working for the FBI, then I’ll say otherwise. But there’s no proof because I didn’t work for them. Don’t be posting stuff on my old apartments where my old neighbors are thinking that I’m an FBI consultant or whatever the hell it is, okay? If you do that again, I promise you, I will sue you. That’s a guarantee. Don’t (beep) do that again. Don’t come to my old house. Don’t be posting stuff that’s not true.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey didn’t call from a blocked number, so I call him back and he answers.  
Speaker 16:Hello?  
Trevor Aaronson:Hi, this is Trevor. I’m sorry, I missed your call.  
Mickey Windecke…:Yeah, Trevor, this is Michael Windecker. I got a call from my landlord that you posted a note on my old apartment that I used to live at stating that was an FBI consultant or something like that?  
Trevor Aaronson:Yeah, so I’m a journalist and I’m doing a story on your work with the FBI during the summer of 2020, and I’ve been trying to reach you.  
Mickey Windecke…:Really? I worked with the FBI here in 2020?  
Trevor Aaronson:You did. I have records and video and audio proving this  
Mickey Windecke…:Records and video and audio of me working with the FBI? That seems kind of weird because I didn’t work with the FBI.  
Trevor Aaronson:You were paid $5,000 every two weeks during your work with them.  
Mickey Windecke…:That’s not true.  
Trevor Aaronson:Well, that’s what the records say. But I would love to talk to you about this. I’d like to interview you about your work during the summer of 2020.  
Mickey Windecke…:No. See, the thing I don’t do is I don’t talk to the press, I don’t talk to politicians, and I don’t talk to the police.  
Trevor Aaronson:Mickey then threatens, again, to sue me for defamation if I report that he worked for the FBI. And he hangs up.  
Al Letson:Mickey Wind Decker’s undercover work yielded few results for the FBI. Bryce Shelby was never charged with a crime. The other protestor, Zebb Hall, pleaded guilty to transferring a firearm to a felon after buying that gun from Mickey. But based on information revealed in Alphabet Boys, a federal judge has since appointed a new lawyer for Zebb, who’s now asking to withdraw his plea. In short, the FBI did not find racial justice activists in Denver who were willing to cross the line into terrorism, but as the FBI investigated protestors on the left, far right extremists were growing in power. Within months, groups like the Proud Boys would help lead the insurrection on the US Capitol, a staggering intelligence failure for the FBI. After the release of the Alphabet Boys podcast, democratic Senator Ron Wyden called the FBI Operation a clear abuse of authority. And the ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that some of the surveillance and police searches revealed in the podcast were a violation of constitutional protections.  
 What you heard today is just a taste of Alphabet boys. I listened to all 10 episodes of season one. There is so much more than what you heard today. I absolutely recommend it. Season two is out now. Search Alphabet Boys wherever you get your podcasts. Today’s show was written and reported by Trevor Aaronson. Alphabet Boys is a production of Western Sound, which by the way, provided to Reveal that phone recording and voicemail you heard earlier. The Western Sound team includes executive producer Ben Adair, editor Colin McNulty, and producer Nicole McNulty. Brett Myers also edited today’s show with help from Kate Howard. The production assistant and fact-checker for today’s episode is Eleanor Knight.  
 Our digital producer is Nikki Frick. Victoria Baranetsky is Reveal’s general counsel. Our production managers are Steven Rascon and Zulema Cobb. Original music for today’s episode is by Alex McGinnis, sound design by Alex and Dan Leone, with help from the dynamic duo, Jay Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs, and Fernando, my man, yo-Arruda. Our CEO is Robert Rosenthal. Our COO is Maria Feldman. Our interim executive producers are Taki Telonidis and Brett Myers. Our theme music is by Comarado Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by the Riva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Park Foundation, and the Helman Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson. And remember, there is always more to the story.  

Kate Howard (she/her) is an investigative editor for Reveal. Previously, she was managing editor at the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. She spent nearly 14 years as a reporter, including stints at The Tennessean, The Florida Times-Union and the Omaha World-Herald. Her work has been the recipient of two national Investigative Reporters & Editors Awards. Howard is based in Louisville, Kentucky.

Nikki Frick is the associate editor for research and copy for Reveal. She previously worked as a copy editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and held internships at The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times and She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was an American Copy Editors Society Aubespin scholar. Frick is based in Milwaukee.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda is a sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. As a multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the original music, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. He has held four O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary abilities. His work has been recognized with Peabody, duPont-Columbia, Edward R. Murrow, Gerald Loeb, Third Coast and Association of Music Producers awards, as well as Emmy and Pulitzer nominations. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio for media and TV ads, and co-founded a film-scoring boutique called the Manhattan Composers Collective. He worked with clients such as Marvel, MasterClass and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck+Company, BUCK and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles, such as SFJAZZ Monday Night Band, Art&Sax quartet, Krychek, Dark Inc. and the New York Arabic Orchestra. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 Percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker,” Wondery’s “Detective Trapp,” MSNBC’s “Why Is This Happening?” and NBC’s “Born to Rule,” to name a few. Arruda also has a wide catalog of composed music for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which has premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. The original music he makes with Jim Briggs for Reveal can be found on Bandcamp.

Steven Rascón (he/they) is the production manager for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Zulema Cobb is an operations and audio production associate for The Center for Investigative Reporting. She's originally from Los Angeles County, where she was raised until moving to Oregon. Her interest in the well-being of families and children inspired her to pursue family services at the University of Oregon. Her diverse background includes banking, affordable housing, health care and education, where she helped develop a mentoring program for students. Cobb is passionate about animals and has fostered and rescued numerous dogs and cats. She frequently volunteers at animal shelters and overseas rescue missions. In her spare time, she channels her creative energy into photography, capturing memories for friends and family. Cobb is based in Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, three kids, three dogs and cat.

Al Letson is a playwright, performer, screenwriter, journalist, and the host of Reveal. Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Letson national recognition and devoted fans.