White Supremacist Arrested in Oklahoma Synagogue Attack

  • April 26, 2004

Sean Michael Gillespie, a reputed member of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, was arrested in Russellville, Arkansas, on April 16, 2004, for allegedly trying to firebomb a synagogue in Oklahoma City two weeks earlier.

Gillespie, 20, is accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at Temple B'Nai Israel on April 1, 2004. The incendiary device caused only minor damage. He was arrested two weeks later at a fast food restaurant in Russellville, Arkansas, by FBI agents, Arkansas State Police and the Pope County Sheriff's Department. A surveillance tape of the firebombing was reportedly one of the leads used to identify him.

Gillespie has close-cropped hair and has been seen wearing swastika t-shirts, a style of appearance associated with members of racist skinhead organizations. He was reportedly a "corporal" in the Idaho-based Aryan Nations and acted as a staff member at its headquarters in Couer d'Alene, where the group's aging "Fuhrer," Richard Butler, still holds sway. Since its founding in the mid-1970s, more criminal incidents can be linked to Aryan Nations than any other neo-Nazi group in the United States.

Like many recruits to the neo-Nazi movement, Gillespie is believed to have started young. He already identified himself as a member of Aryan Nations by the time he was 17, and was an adherent of Christian Identity, a racist and anti-Semitic sect whose members believe they are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel.

As a teenager, Gillespie posted to neo-Nazi Internet message boards such as Stormfront, looking for an "Aryan woman" to date (and with whom to distribute racist literature) and actively sought out recruits for Aryan Nations in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, "to make sure that against all odds we can secure the [existence] of our Race." Gillespie used screen names such as "Yahweh88" (Christian Identity adherents refer to God as Yahweh, while 88 is a numeric code for "Heil Hitler") and, even more tellingly, "Jewslayer 88."

Later, Gillespie joined the National Guard, but was discharged, reportedly because of his racist views. "I refused to denounce [sic] my beliefs," Gillespie afterwards explained to his fellow on-line Nazis, "and was very lucky not to have gotten a dishonorable discharge…The United States military works under the United Nations and we all know they work for the kikes over in Israel."

In 2002, Gillespie was arrested for allegedly trying to disrupt a Martin Luther King Day rally in Spokane, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review; the disposition of that case is not known.

Gillespie is currently being held in Little Rock awaiting extradition to Oklahoma City. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.