Police find Nazi items, explosives during Tampa murder probe

Posted at 5:34 AM, May 23, 2017

Investigators found white supremacist propaganda, bomb-making materials and a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at a Florida apartment where a teenager killed two roommates who had once shared his neo-Nazi beliefs before he converted to Islam, police and the FBI said.

Devon Arthurs, 18, led police to the two bodies inside his Tampa apartment last Friday, saying he killed them after they showed disrespect for his new faith, according to police and FBI reports released Monday.

A fourth roommate, a member of the Florida National Guard, was arrested on charges related to the alleged discovery of bomb-making materials.

The investigation began unfolding Friday, when Arthurs held two customers and an employee hostage at gunpoint at a Tampa smoke shop, police said.

Arthurs said he converted to Islam and was upset about American bombings in Muslim countries, among other issues, according to a Tampa police report. He is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges, and court records did not list an attorney for him.

Officers talked Arthurs into letting the hostages go and dropping his weapon, and took him into custody, according to officials. Police said Arthurs started talking about killing two people, and then he directed them to a condominium complex where the four roommates shared an apartment.

When they arrived at the apartment the fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, was crying and standing outside the apartment's front door in his military uniform. He had just finished duty with the Florida National Guard.

Inside lay the bodies of 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. Both had been shot.

Investigators also found a cooler filled with bomb-making material, two radioactive substances and the Nazi propaganda, according to the FBI. Federal agents arrested Russell, 21, on Saturday on charges related to the explosives.

The FBI said Russell "admitted to his neo-Nazi beliefs" and said he was a member of a group called Atomwaffen, which is German for "atomic weapon."

At first, Russell told agents he kept the explosives from his days in an engineering club at the University of South Florida in 2013, and that he used the substances to boost homemade rockets. The agents wrote that the substance found was "too energetic and volatile for these types of uses."

Russell has been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material. Court records did not list an attorney for him.

Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious computer hacker and internet troll, wrote a post about the killings for The Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi website.

Auernheimer, known online as "weev," said in Sunday's post that he knew the shooting suspect and both of the shooting victims. He said he banned Arthurs from The Daily Stormer's Discord server, an online forum, for posting "Muslim terrorist propaganda" earlier this year.

"He came in to convert people to Islam," Auernheimer said during a telephone interview Monday. "It didn't work out very well for him."

Auernheimer described Himmelman and Oneschuk as "friends of friends" and said they belonged to the Atomwaffen group.

"Atomwaffen are a bunch of good dudes. They've posted tons of fliers with absolutely killer graphics at tons of universities over the years. They generally have a lot of fun and party," he wrote.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, said the law center had seen recent news reports on Atomwaffen members posting neo-Nazi fliers on college campuses. But the SPLC hadn't examined the group's membership or the "ins and outs" of the organization before Friday's shooting.

"Once again, we see how violent these people are," she said. "In the neo-Nazi movement, we've seen a long string of bombers and murderers."


Dearen reported from Gainesville, Florida. Kunzelman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.