White Supremacist Terrorist Acts, Conspiracies and Plots against Jews
Over the last two decades, white supremacists have targeted the Jewish community in the United States through terrorist acts, conspiracies and plots. Below is a selection of incidents against the Jewish community between 1994 and 2014.
- Overland Park, Kansas, 2014: Police in Overland Park, Kansas, arrested long-time Missouri white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller for allegedly engaging in a shooting spree targeting victims at two Jewish institutions in the Kansas City suburb that resulted in three fatalities.
- Washington, Oregon, California, 2011: Unaffiliated white supremacists David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby allegedly engaged in a multi-state killing spree that resulted in four murders in three states. According to authorities, the couple murdered Pedersen’s father and stepmother in Seattle, a random white male in Oregon as part of a carjacking, and an African-American male in California as part of another carjacking. In court, Pederson said he targeted one man because he believed he was Jewish and the other because he was black. After their arrest, Grigsby reportedly claimed that she and Pedersen were headed to Sacramento, California, to “kill more Jews.”
- Brockton, Massachusetts, 2009: Keith Luke, an unaffiliated white supremacist, killed two Cape Verdean immigrants and raped and shot a third. Police captured him after a brief chase—Luke subsequently admitted to police that he was planning to go to a local synagogue that evening to kill as many Jews as possible, then kill himself. He was convicted of first degree murder and other charges in 2013.
- Washington, D.C., 2009: Long-time white supremacist James Von Brunn opened fire with a rifle inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, killing a security guard before being incapacitated by return fire from another guard. Von Brunn died before standing trial.
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 2004: Aryan Nations member Sean Michael Gillespie of Russellville, Arkansas, firebombed a synagogue in Oklahoma City with a Molotov cocktail in what was intended at the time to be the first of a series of 14 terrorist attacks (the number 14 is symbolically significant to white supremacists because it is shorthand for the popular “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”). Gillespie received an extended sentence in 2005 because he tried to send a letter to the temple after his conviction that expressed his hatred toward Jewish people. The letter, which was read in court, also described his desire to spark a “racial holy war.”
- Nashville, Tennessee, 2004: White supremacist Michael Edward Smith of Nashville, Tennessee, was convicted on weapons charges and eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison after a motorist observed Smith pointing an assault rifle at a Nashville synagogue and alerted police. Smith, who led authorities on a brief chase before surrendering, later directed police to a large cache of buried weapons, including hand grenades, pipe bombs and armor-piercing ammunition. Other explosives and hate literature were also found in Smith's home. A search of Smith's computer records showed that he had conducted research on Jewish institutions in Nashville and Atlanta.
- Boston, Massachusetts, 2001: Police in Boston arrested racist skinhead Leo Felton and his girlfriend, Erica Chase, after an off-duty police officer noticed Chase passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The two were members of a small white supremacist terror cell whose members plotted to attack Jewish and African-American targets; the counterfeit bills were to help them raise the necessary funds. The couple was convicted in 2002 of plotting to build a destructive device, counterfeiting, obstruction of justice, and firearms violations. Felton was found guilty of bank robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and trying to obtain explosives with the intent to kill and injure and damage property.
- Sacramento, California, 2001: White supremacist brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams received hefty prison sentences for setting fire to three synagogues in Sacramento, California, as well a building housing an abortion clinic. At the sentencing, prosecutors described the brothers as known extremists who followed hate groups such as World Church of the Creator and Aryan Nations.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2000: During a racially motivated shooting rampage that targeted ethnic and religious minorities, Richard Baumhammers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killed an Indian man who was in the country on a work visa, a Vietnamese immigrant, a Chinese immigrant, an African-American man, and a Jewish woman. Baumhammers also fired shots into two Jewish synagogues and painted a swastika on one of the buildings. He eventually received the death penalty for his shooting spree.
- Los Angeles, California, 1999: Aryan Nations member Buford O'Neal Furrow, Jr., opened fire inside a Jewish day care center in Los Angeles, California, injuring five people, including three small boys, a teenaged girl and an adult staff member. While fleeing, he later shot and killed a Filipino-American postal worker. Furrow told the FBI that he wanted the shootings at the North Valley Jewish Community Center to be “a wake-up call to America to kill Jews."
- Indiana and Illinois, 1999: White supremacist Benjamin Smith embarked upon a two-day, two-state racially motivated shooting spree, killing two and seriously injuring eight other people in Indiana and Illinois, including six Chicago-area Jews leaving Sabbath evening synagogue services. Smith, who fatally shot himself as police closed in on him, was a member of the World Church of the Creator, now known as the Creativity Movement.
- Eugene, Oregon, 1994: Chris Lord, a white supremacist linked to Volksfront and the racist skinhead group American Front, opened fire at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene, Oregon, with an assault rifle on March 20, 1994. According to police reports, Lord shot 10 rounds at the temple, half of which entered through the windows and damaged the interior. Lord was convicted of first-degree intimidation, unlawful use of a weapon, first-degree criminal mischief and being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Lord’s accomplice, George Dennis Smith, was also convicted.