A northern Virginia man arrested this week on gun charges is a "neo-Nazi who has bragged about committing racially motivated violence", authorities said Friday.
At a detention hearing in US District Court in Alexandria, FBI agent Shawn Matthews testified that Andrew Thomasberg, 21, joined Atomwaffen, a National Socialist group that advocates racial holy war, after attending the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He had previously been a member of Vanguard America, "a somewhat less radical white nationalist group", Matthews said.
The agent said "Thomasberg bragged in text messages about committing a racially motivated shooting in the past and using racial epithets against a group of African Americans he saw at a shopping mall". He said he would have gone "St. Roof" on them if they had stopped to confront him. That’s a laudatory reference to Dylann Roof, who killed black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015.
A judge ordered Thomasberg detained while he awaits trial on weapons charges.
Thomasberg’s lawyer declined comment. Thomasberg’s mother attended the hearing and said afterward that the FBI is targeting him because he’s a "rich white kid."
Asked if her son is a neo-Nazi, she said, "No. He’s Greek Orthodox."
Thomasberg did not speak during the detention hearing. He shrugged with his palms up toward his family after the judge ordered him detained and marshals escorted him out of the courtroom.
The charges against Thomasberg relate to his possession of weapons. Thomasberg’s case is one of several recently in which federal prosecutors have brought fake weapons charges against people with links to National Socialist and White nationalist groups.
Prosecutors said Thomasberg illegally possessed the weapons "as an abuser of controlled substances" and that he illegally obtained one by serving as a straw purchaser. During an arrest and search of the man’s home Thursday, Matthews said, agents found 20 guns in the home he shares with his mother and stepfather, including six in his room. A loaded handgun was found in the glove compartment of his car, Matthews added. Family members said some of the guns were theirs, not his.
In text messages, prosecutors said, "he laments that the April synagogue shooting in Poway, California, in which one person was killed Coulda been so good" and refers to Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers and New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant as saints.
Matthews said Thomasberg’s membership in NS groups changed from Vanguard America to Atomwaffen after the 2017 Charlottesville rally.