Authorities in middle Tennessee have arrested three white supremacists for allegedly firebombing a Tennessee mosque and destroying religious property.
Federal officials charged the three men—Eric Ian Baker, 32, Michael Corey Golden, 23, and Jonathan Edwards Stone, 19, all of Columbia, Tennessee—with unlawful possession of explosives for their alleged roles in the February 9 firebombing and vandalism of the Islamic Center of Columbia, approximately 40 miles southwest of Nashville. The complaint alleges the three planned for at least a week in advance to burn down the mosque. The men also face state charges of arson.
Authorities claim the three men went to the Islamic Center, where Baker allegedly spray-painted swastikas and the words "White Power" on the walls, while Golden and Stone allegedly broke in and ignited home-made incendiary devices crafted from empty beer bottles, rags and gasoline. Police arrested the men later that day after reportedly identifying them in a surveillance video from a local gas station.
According to the federal complaint, Stone and Baker told officers that they are Christian Identity adherents. Christian Identity is a racist and anti-Semitic religious sect whose adherents believe that white Europeans are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel. Many Identity adherents believe that Jews are descended from Satan and that non-white people have no souls. Police found Nazi flags in one suspect's home during the initial investigation.
The third suspect, Golden, did not claim adherence to Christian Identity. However, an online social networking profile created by Golden features a number of neo-Nazi and white supremacist images, as well as a photograph of Golden giving a white power hand sign.
The men did not claim to be part of an established group, but rather seemed to be a small band of white supremacists, with Baker acting as their de facto leader. According to the complaint, Stone allegedly told police that he "earned two stripes" from Baker for committing this act, as stripes or promotions are earned for "committing acts of violence against enemies." Baker was purportedly described as Stone's "sponsor" in the movement.
If convicted, the defendants face 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The investigation is ongoing, and is a joint effort by the ATF, the FBI and the Columbia Police Department. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and the Criminal Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will prosecute the case.