Earlier this month, lost amidst the Alabama election and chatter on Fox News about a “coup,” came a reminder that America remains at a perilous place when it comes to both white supremacy and school shootings.
In New Mexico, William Edward Atchison allegedly killed a pair of students, as well as himself, at Aztec High School. The shooter’s intentions weren’t hard to discern: A thumb drive recovered at the scene of the shooting described a “plan” to “hold a class hostage and go apeshit, then blow my brains out.”
According to The Daily Beast, however, behind Atchison’s plan lay a history of postings on white supremacist sites like The Daily Stormer – as well as an online record of living as a “pro-Trump meme peddler.” Users on one site apparently grated at Atchison’s “‘shitty [F]acebook commentaries’ praising Donald Trump on the site’s home page.”
It remains unclear whether Atchison posted pro-Trump material out of fervent devotion to the sitting president, or if he was simply trolling. Regardless, with the shooting, Atchison joined the latest line of violent actors – many of whom maintained histories of white supremacy, even if Atchison was simply trolling – who have espoused a devotion to the president.
“Your generic left-wing extremist or right-wing extremist – they’re typically going to be too extreme for whoever’s in power,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage told ThinkProgress. But Trump “is changing everything.”
To be sure, Trump isn’t the only 2016 candidate whose supporters later resorted to political violence, as a Bernie Sanders supporter earlier this year attempted to assassinate congressional Republicans.
Still, while Trump’s leadership has broken any number of norms or models over the past two years, the spate of politically charged instances of domestic violence from supporters appears to be a new phenomenon, at least within the modern context. That is to say, where prior iterations of the Ku Klux Klan may have pushed support for Andrew Johnson or Calvin Coolidge, vocal support for the current president from domestic extremists appears to be an anomalous development – one with ominous repercussions.
Here’s a rundown of some of the far-right murderers who have publicly praised the president – and who later tried to slaughter other Americans, in some instances successfully.
Garden City, Kansas
In Oct. 2016, when it looked as if Trump would be trounced at the ballot box, a pair of Trump supporters decided to preempt any election-related bloodshed. The two men, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen, joined a third, Gavin Wright, in attempting to unleash a series of bombings against a local population of Somali immigrants. The plot, if successful, could have ended as the deadliest terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11.
Fortunately, the plan never got off the ground, and the three were arrested before they could slaughter their fellow Kansans. But where the attack fell through, the pair’s praise for Trump remained, available for journalists and researchers alike.
For instance, Stein posted pro-Trump memes on his Facebook account, including one claiming he would “vote for Trump at his worst any day of the week over Hillary at her best!” Or as New York Magazine wrote in a recent piece, “As far as Patrick Stein was concerned, Donald Trump was ‘the Man.’”
Allen, meanwhile, professed his support with original writings. In one post from May 2016, Allen wrote: “I personally back Donald Trump because even tho he is running under the republican ticket I do not see him as a party member, part of the problem!”
Stein and Allen, as well as Wright, all face charges of conspiracy to detonate truck bombs. But neither Stein nor Allen appear to have renounced their support for Trump. According to the Kansas City Star, they recently complained that “their rights are being violated by the exclusion of jurors from more politically conservative areas.”
Samish Island, Washington
Not all fatal violence from Trump supporters has necessarily been targeted at minority populations, as the case of Lane Davis shows. A prolific conspiracy theorist, Davis allegedly murdered his father over the summer after an argument involving, in part, Davis’s belief that liberals had been organizing secretive pedophilia rings.
In addition to once working for the disgraced provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos – and saying that he wrote certain of Yiannopoulos’s articles – Davis also tried his hands at, of all things, hip-hop. Specifically, pro-Trump rap.
In one of his YouTube videos, published in June 2016, Davis shared his talents as a pro-Trump rapper. Among the lyrics Davis put together:
“Time to make America great again / you know it is”
“I stay hot / my name fly / but Donald J / up in the sky”
“Some dudes never change / but Trump always say flexible / always stay rational / you better not test him, bro”
Trump has never commented on the Davis killing, and it remains unclear whether he’s aware that a murderous white nationalist had published raps in support of the president.
Perhaps the most egregious example of Trump supporters morphing into murderers came amidst the most notable instance of politically motivated bloodshed the U.S. has seen during the Trump era: Charlottesville.
While many of the of those participating in the far-right rallies in Charlottesville, including Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach, have spouted pro-Trump rhetoric in the past, others bundled their support for the president into the violence that cost at least one life in the city.
For instance, Dennis Mothersbaugh, a neo-Nazi recently sentenced for punching a Charlottesville counter-protester in the face, showed his support for Trump while in prison. As onlookers saw, Mothersbaugh wore a shirt during his arrest that read “GOD, GUNS, & TRUMP.”
— Chris Turner (@ChrisTurnerWDRB) October 6, 2017
But Mothersbaugh wasn’t the sole pro-Trump white supremacist to wreak violence in Charlottesville – or even the worst. James Fields, who stands accused of first-degree murder for running his car into counter-protesters and killing Heather Heyer, also made his support of the president publicly known before his attack.
On his Facebook, which has since been taken down, Fields had emblazoned his cove photo with Trump’s campaign slogan:
In another, bizarre instance, Fields had also posted a wordless cover photo that showed Trump, crown atop his head, sitting on a throne, staring at the viewer. The image appears to mimic an image from a video game in which George Washington, instead of stepping down from the presidency, clung to power.
As with Davis, Trump hasn’t commented on the support from Mothersbaugh or Fields – aside from saying, of course, that there were “very fine people” on either sides of the protests in Charlottesville.