TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – An accused neo-Nazi who was found with explosives in Tampa Palms will not be released from jail before his trial, a federal magistrate ruled Wednesday.
Brandon Russell, 21, is accused of storing bomb-making materials at his Tampa Palms apartment, where authorities also found white supremacist propaganda and a photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
The items were discovered after Russell’s roommate, former neo-Nazi Devon Arthurs, 18, allegedly gunned down their two roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk.
All four roommates were reportedly members of a neo-Nazi group called Atom Waffen, German for “atomic weapon.” The Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as a hate group.
Arthurs had reportedly converted to Islam and posted on the group’s website in an attempt to convert other members to his new religious faith. Once he was kicked out of the group, he killed his two roommates, for “disrespecting Islam,” according to authorities.
Russell was at the scene when police arrived and found the bodies. He was arrested on a FBI warrant two days later in Key Largo and later admitted to detectives he was a member Atom Waffen.
Judge Thomas McCoun ruled Russell should be detained until his trial because his actions “cast doubts on suggestions of defendant’s innocent intentions.”
Photos of the explosive materials, blasting caps and weapons stored in the apartment were released by the government this week.
News Channel 8 spoke with Scott Mann, author of “Game Changers; going Local to Defeat Violent Extremists.”
Mann is a security expert and retired U.S. Army Colonel who served as a Green Beret. He tells us the photos show the serious nature of the intent of Russell and his roommates.
“Guys like this are not lone wolfs, they are not fringe nut jobs, they are players,” said Mann.
Mann believes Russell and the two victims should have been considered a real threat before their explosive materials were discovered by authorities.
“There was a time when guys like this, they were fringe guys, they were amateurs there was a lot of talk and even if they did something, the odds of it being a strategic event that would have a massive impact in the country were pretty slim. I think Timothy McVeigh and his efforts started to change that domestically but certainly,” Mann continued. According to police, Russell idolized McVeigh and had a framed picture of the Oklahoma City bomber on his bedroom wall.
Mann believes the internet is allowing people of similar extremists beliefs to connect and present a real danger to the public.
“We’ve seen it in Manchester, we’ve seen it in England, we’ve seen it in Belgium, we’ve seen it in San Bernidino, we saw it right down the road in Orlando with Omar Mateen. Forget the ideology for a second, violent extremists who are committed to moving violence against people who don’t subscribe to their way of believing, they have never been better positioned to achieve strategic outcomes, these guys are potentially players,” said Mann.
Arthurs is facing two counts of murder and three counts of kidnapping in state court.
In recorded statements to Tampa police, Arthurs claimed he saved many lives by killing Himmelman and Oneschuk because they had plans to attack power lines, a nuclear power plant and Synagogues with the explosives found in the apartment.
An attorney for Brandon Russell called Arthurs statements to police, “delusional” and not credible.
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