The FBI have arrested a Florida man who they are alleging was planning a “Dylann Roof”-styled terrorist attack against the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach. Roof carried out a church shooting against an African-American congregation in Charleston in June of 2015 that killed nine innocent people.
Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, was arrested shortly after purchasing a gun from an undercover FBI agent in January. McDowell is also believed to have close ties to white supremacist groups after he spent time in a South Carolina prison.
McDowell made his intentions known via a serious of anti-Semitic Facebook posts and then told the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to carry out an attack on a synagogue. He believed the agent to be someone that “handled problems for the Aryan Nations,” according to the court documents released after his arrest.
He went on to tell the agent that “I got the heart to do that sh*t, but I don’t have to the good training.”
“If I could do something on a f*cking big scale and write on the f*cking building or whatever, ‘In the spirit of Dylann Roof’,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, agents spotted McDowell “holding a bag in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn in Myrtle Beach.” Upon his arrest, they found the handgun and ammunition sold to him by the undercover agent. The bag also contained a cell phone and marijuana cigarettes.
The arrest comes on the same day the Southern Poverty Law Center released their annual Intelligence Report that found a rise nationwide in hate groups across the US.
The report showed a sharp rise in hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump that coincides with the rise of hate groups. While the report focused on groups specifically, it warned that people like McDowell are also a serious threat and that they don’t have a great way of gauging how many individuals are willing to act alone.
White nationalists are increasingly feeling empowered by the election of Trump and the installation of other well-known white nationalists such as Trump’s closest adviser Steve Bannon and the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions into White House senior positions.
In the past two days, President Trump has been asked not once, but twice about growing anti-Semitism in America, and both times he has refused to condemn it or even acknowledge its existence. That in and of itself is a loud and clear dog-whistle to the anti-Semites of America, telling them that their deplorable prejudices have a friend in the White House.
Dan Arel is a bestselling author of The Secular Activist; and Parenting Without God. He is an award-winning journalist and host of the Danthropology Podcast.