For those of us who are outsiders, outcasts, or just feel different, we often turn to the internet to try and find like-minded people. There, we can find a sense of community.
But for every good community that can be found online, there’s another that’s nothing but trouble. When one young man went searching for meaning and camaraderie online, it would prove to come to a terrible end…
Devon was always an outsider. As a young kid, he of course had some friends throughout school. However, Devon turned to the internet and to video games for the majority of his social life.
Core Group of Friends
Over time, Devon began to develop real friendships online. He had a consistent group of people that he would play online games with, or just hang out with in chat rooms on platforms like Tinychat, Discord and Skype. But some of the people that Devon was hanging out with had some extreme political views…
Beginning in his teens, Devon began to associate with a circle of friends that described themselves as “alt-right.” The alt-right is a name given to a number of political groups where the common thread is a rejection of mainstream conservatism in favor of a white supremacist ideology.
Devon belonged to a white nationalist online group called “Atomwaffen,” which is German for “atomic weapon.” On their website, Atomwaffen describes itself as a “Revolutionary National Socialist organization centered around political activism and the practice of an autonomous Fascist lifestyle.” …
But over the last year or so, Devon Arthurs started changing in ways that made his online friends uncomfortable. Perhaps the last thing you would expect a neo-Nazi to do is to say positive things about the Muslim faith. Apparently Arthurs had begun to develop a fondness for a particular branch of Islam known as Salafism.
Salafism is an ultra-conservative movement within Sunni Islam. Arthurs appreciated some Salafi criticism of American culture, saying “I wouldn’t be so mad, if it wasn’t for the fact you literally have millions of western cuckolds ready to defend ‘freedom.’ The freedom for their daughters to be pimped out by pornographic distributors, freedom for their wives to be banged by countless guys while they are home, freedom to have their kids innocence be robbed.”…
Arthurs went so far as to advocate for “white sharia,” a severe type of misogynistic oppression. The idea is that women are the source of the problems with western society and the only solution is their brutal oppression.
“[Arthurs] went from communist to national socialism to hyper-pragmatic capitalism to full ISIS,” said James, an “American nationalist” who met him on Tinychat several years ago. James said that Arthurs thought the American far right was “soft… because groups like ISIS actually do murder homosexuals etc. and take action, while our group had multiple LGBT individuals.”…
Predictably, the members of Atomwaffen ridiculed Arthurs for his new beliefs. However, there were those among the group that defended him, most notably Brandon Russell. He and Arthurs were the best of friends and, although Russell didn’t share the same beliefs Arthurs did, he thought they weren’t that far off from what the rest of the group stood for.
Ultimately, Arthurs’ beliefs got moved to the back burner. “Life isn’t politics 24/7. He and his friends enjoyed playing the same video games. It was fun to have him around,” one friend said. Another added “we all connected in the sense that we were introverts that didn’t really connect with the ‘outside’ world.”
So, despite the ridicule, Arthurs, 18, kept his friend group. He even moved in together with Russell, 22 in an apartment complex in Tampa, Florida where Russell was a member of the Florida National Guard. When he officially converted to Islam shortly after that, the ridicule only intensified. Still, he stayed a member of Atomwaffen.
Arthurs’ ties to the group only seemed to be growing when two more members of Atomwaffen moved in with them. When Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, came to stay with them, their criticism and teasing of Arthurs’ beliefs didn’t stop. Approximately 2 weeks after they moved in, things came to a head…
Do Me a Favor
On a Friday night, a clearly agitated Devon Arthurs walked into a Tampa smoke shop. He had a semiautomatic pistol in his hand and yelled “Do me a favor and get the f— on the ground!” He held the three people inside hostage, ranting about US military attacks in Muslim countries.
Thankfully, the police arrived on the scene shortly after Arthurs took his hostages. When they were able to successfully talk Arthurs into letting the hostages go and to surrender himself, it seemed the situation had ended without anyone being harmed. Then police asked Arthurs if anyone had been hurt…
Crying In Uniform
Arthurs told police that no one was hurt but his roommates were dead. He led police back to the apartment he shared with the 3 other men and when they arrived, Russell was standing outside in his National Guard uniform, crying openly.
Like You Guys
“That’s my roommate,” Arthurs said to police. “He doesn’t know what’s going on and just found [our other roommates] like you guys did.” When police entered the apartment, they found Himmelman Oneschuk dead from gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Arthurs said he had killed them because they disrespected his new faith…
As police were investigating the apartment, they found something strange in Russell’s bedroom. On the dresser next to his bed, he had a framed photo of Timothy McVeigh, the man responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. They also found chemicals and other materials commonly used in making explosives in their garage.
Didn’t Go Far Enough
Russell said the chemicals were for model rockets, but according to the FBI, the compounds he had were too volatile for that purpose. When questioned by police, Arthurs said that Russell “loved McVeigh. [Russell] said the only thing McVeigh did wrong was he didn’t put more material inside the truck to bring the whole building down.”…
Both men were arrested, though Russell had no connection to the murders. Arthurs was charged with murder and kidnapping in state court. Brandon Russell faces federal charges of possessing explosive material.
While it is clear that Arthurs and Russell both belonged to a political group with dangerous and radical ideologies, it is interesting to note that neither of the men are currently facing terrorism charges. Both men are still awaiting trial for their crimes.