White supremacist charged with planning to blow up Colorado synagogue
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White supremacist charged with planning to blow up Colorado synagogue

Richard Holzer also intended to poison water at Temple Emanuel in Pueblo; said he wished Holocaust had happened

This photo provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office shows Richard Holzer, who was arrested, November 1, 2019, in Pueblo, Colorado. Holzer, who is accused of plotting to bomb a historic Colorado synagogue, appeared briefly in court on November 4. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This photo provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office shows Richard Holzer, who was arrested, November 1, 2019, in Pueblo, Colorado. Holzer, who is accused of plotting to bomb a historic Colorado synagogue, appeared briefly in court on November 4. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

US authorities have arrested a known white supremacist on suspicion that he planned to blow up a synagogue in Colorado, according to a court affidavit made publicly available on Monday.

The suspect, named as Richard Holzer, 27, met an undercover FBI agent on Friday at a motel with explosives that he allegedly intended to use to attack Temple Emanuel in the city of Pueblo, according to the affidavit, filed on Saturday at the US District Court in Colorado.

Holzer told an undercover FBI agent that he had previously been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and had become a skinhead, it said.

Holzer said he was preparing a “holy war” and claimed to have poisoned the water at the synagogue with arsenic and was planning to do so again.

“I want something that tells them they are not welcome in this town. Better get the f— out, otherwise, people will die,” he said while hatching the plot, according to the complaint. When shown a picture of pipe bombs, he responded “Sieg Heil brothers.”

The night before the planned bombing, Holzer, wearing a Nazi arm band and carrying a copy of Mein Kampf, met up with undercover FBI agents who he thought were his co-conspirators, describing the dummy explosives they brought as “absolutely gorgeous,” according to the court filing.

Holzer said they should go ahead with the attack overnight to avoid police, the court document said.

According to the affidavit, when asked what if people were in the building when the bomb exploded, “Holzer stated that he did not think anyone would be there, but that if they were, Holzer would not care because they would be Jews.”

Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colorado. (CC BY-SA Jeffery Beall, Flickr)

The undercover FBI agent was said to have first made contact with Holzer on September 28 on Facebook.

Also a Holocaust denier, Holzer told another Facebook user: “I wish the holocaust really did happen… they need to die.”

During police questioning he referred to the plot as “my mountain” and to Jewish people as “a cancer.”

The arrest comes exactly a year after a white supremacist killed 11 people during a shooting rampage in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and several months after another white supremacist opened fire in a San Diego-area synagogue, killing one.

At least 12 other plots against Jewish institutions throughout the US have been foiled since the Pittsburgh attack, according to the anti-Defamation League, as the community deals with what officials say is a sharp uptick in anti-Semitic attacks.

A makeshift memorial stands outside the Tree of Life synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting in Pittsburgh, on October 29, 2018 in which eleven Jews were killed while at Shabbat services. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Holzer is reportedly being charged of attempting to obstruct a religious exercise by force, using explosives and fire.

Holzer, who lives in Pueblo, was due to make his first court appearance Monday. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer representing him.

US Attorney Jason Dunn in Denver and FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips also planned a news conference Monday.

Dunn in Denver said federal and Pueblo law enforcement had thwarted “an imminent threat of domestic terrorism against a Colorado religious institution.”

“Mr. Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and his support for a racial holy war,” Dunn said at a news conference.

If convicted of a pending domestic terrorism charge, Holzer could face 20 years in prison, Dunn said.

“Mr. Holzer will now have the opportunity to explain his behavior through our court system in a constitutional way — which in the spirit of irony, protects religious freedom as one of its most golden rules,” said Pueblo Police Chief Troy Davenport.

The Temple Emanuel synagogue is the second-oldest in Colorado and was completed in 1900, according to Temple Emanuel’s website.

It has a congregation of about 30 families and a rabbi from Denver who travels to Pueblo twice a month. Pueblo is about a two hour drive south of Denver. A voicemail left at the temple Monday afternoon wasn’t immediately returned.

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