White Supremacist Terrorist Acts, Conspiracies and Plots against Jews

May 13, 2021

Over the past 25 years, numerous white supremacists have targeted the Jewish community in the U.S. through terrorist acts, conspiracies and plots. Here is a selection of significant incidents from 1994 through 2021.

  • Assumption, Illinois, 2020: Federal agents charged Randall Burrus with weapons offenses in connection with an alleged white supremacist plot to attack a synagogue or mosque. This is linked to the April 15, 2020 incident involving John Michael Rathbun in Massachusetts.
  • East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, 2020: Federal agents arrested white supremacist John Michael Rathbun for allegedly attempting to use an incendiary device to burn down a Jewish assisted living facility. This arrest is linked to the April 15, 2020 incident involving Randall Burrus in Illinois. In late 2020, a mistrial was declared after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict against Rathbun.
  • Pueblo, Colorado, 2019: Federal authorities arrested white supremacist Richard Holzer on multiple charges related to a plot to blow up a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. Holzer pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and explosives charges and was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • Escondido, California, 2019: White supremacist John T. Earnest allegedly opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three before fleeing. He was reportedly emulating white supremacist Brenton Tarrant's killing spree in New Zealand in March 2019. Earnest faces the death penalty if convicted.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2018: White supremacist Robert Gregory Bowers, 46, allegedly conducted a deadly shooting spree at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 and wounding seven more. Bowers appears to have been motivated by anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant convictions.
  • Carmel, Indiana, 2018: White supremacist Nolan Brewer plotted to burn down a synagogue in Carmel, Indiana. However, when he showed up he was deterred by its security cameras and at the last minute committed an act of vandalism instead. He pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and received a three-year sentence.
  • Irvine, California, 2018: Orange County police officers arrested Nicholas Rose, 26, after a family member tipped them off that Rose was plotting to kill Jews. A subsequent investigation revealed he had "kill lists" of prominent Jews and a list of steps he titled "killing my first Jew." Rose also was concerned about "white genocide," a common white supremacist trope. After pleading guilty, Rose was sentenced to 825 days in jail, one year in a mental health treatment program and five years of probation.
  • Whitehall, New York, 2015: White supremacist Shane Robert Smith was arrested in December 2015 for illegally possessing machineguns and possessing a silencer, in connection with a plot to target Jews and African Americans for assassination. Smith pleaded guilty in 2016 to illegal possession of a machine gun and received a sentence of 37 months in prison. In 2021, Smith was sent back to prison after pleading guilty to illegally possessing firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
  • Chesterfield, Virginia, 2015: Three white supremacists, Robert Doyle, Ronald Chaney III and Charles Halderman, were arrested in November 2015 on a variety of charges related to plans to incite a "race war" by bombing or otherwise attacking black churches and synagogues, and other violent acts, including committing armed robbery to finance their plans. In 2016, Halderman agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to affect commerce by robbery, and the others subsequently made plea deals. Ronald Chaney III was sentenced to nearly nine years in prison, Doyle to 17½ years and Halderman to seven years.
  • Overland Park, Kansas, 2014: Police in Overland Park, Kansas, arrested long-time Missouri white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller for engaging in a shooting spree targeting victims at two Jewish institutions in the Kansas City suburb that resulted in three fatalities. Miller was convicted of murder and other charges and sentenced to death in 2015. In May 2021, Miller died while on death row.
  • Washington, Oregon, California, 2011: Unaffiliated white supremacists David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby 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 white man in Oregon as part of a carjacking, and a Black man 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.” In 2014 Pedersen was sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole and Grigsby was sentenced to one life sentence without the possibility of parole.
  • 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. Luke died of an apparent suicide in 2014.
  • 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 Black 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. In 2002, Benjamin was found dead in his cell after apparently committing suicide. At the time, the brothers were waiting to go to trial for the double murder of two gay men in Happy Valley, California. James eventually pleaded guilty to the murders and was sentenced to 29 years to life, to run consecutive to his earlier sentence.
  • 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, a Black 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 and currently sits on death row.
  • 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." Furrow pled guilty to murder and firearms charges and was given two consecutive life sentences and an additional 110 years running consecutively with the life sentences.
  • 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.