ATF officials state they have broken up a plot by two neo-Nazi skinheads to assassinate Barack Obama, and shoot or decapitate 88 black people.
Two men, Daniel Cowart, 20 (left), of Bells, TN and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of Helena-West Helena, AR, were arrested on Oct. 22 by the Crockett County, TN Sheriff's office and are being held without bond, according to court records unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, TN.
The court documents say the two men met about a month ago on the Internet and found common ground in their shared "white power" and " skinhead" philosophy.
Federal agents stated they seized a rifle, a sawed-off shotgun and three pistols from the men when they were arrested, disrupting plans for Cowart and Schlesselman to rob a gun store and target a predominantly African-American high school in a murder spree that was to begin in TN. Agents said the school's name was not given.
The court records say Cowart and Schlesselman also bought nylon rope and ski masks to use in a robbery or home invasion to fund their spree, during which they allegedly planned to go from state to state and kill people.
For the Obama, court documents show that Cowart and Schlesselman "planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows." "Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt," the court complaint states. "Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt."
"They seemed determined to do it," Cavanaugh said. "Even if they were just to try it, it would be a trail of tears around the South."
Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of ATF's Nashville field office, said the two men planned to kill 88 people, including 14 African-Americans by beheading. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community. The 14 refers to a 14-word phrase attributed to an imprisoned white supremacist: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" and the 8th letter of the alphabet, H. Two "8"s or "H"s stand for "Heil Hitler" and an 88-word statement from Hitler's Mein Kampf.
The men also sought to go on a national killing spree after the TN murders, with Obama as their final target, Cavanaugh added. "They said that would be their last, final act - that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama," Cavanaugh said. "They didn't believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying."
Cowart and Schlesselman are charged with possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threatening a candidate for president. The investigation is continuing, and more charges are possible, Cavanaugh added.
The Tennessee Republican Party expressed its shock and outrage today at the alleged plot.
"Hate is not a political party, policy statement, agenda or ideology - it is a pure evil that [has] no place in civil society," said Robin Smith, Chairman of the TN Republican Party. "Whether it is neo-Nazi skinheads plotting a racist shooting spree targeting Sen. Obama, or West Hollywood liberals hanging Gov. Sarah Palin in effigy and calling it "art," or unknown anarchists tossing bricks through the windows of a county Republican headquarters in Murfreesboro, Americans of all political views should be outraged.
"The American system provides for Americans to express their political passions on the campaign trail and at the ballot box. Violence, intimidation and threats poison the political process."