Three alleged members of the "boogaloo" movement were planning to spark violence during protests in Las Vegas, officials said, including a plan to use Molotov cocktails to hijack peaceful gatherings.
Two of the men are former members of the military, a third is a current Army reservist, and all of them are identified with the boogaloo movement, whose followers believe a second Civil War is coming and advocate for it, according to the criminal complaint.
The men talked about wanting to "violently overthrow the United States," had discussed plans to firebomb a ranger station at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and looked at a plan to "incite chaos and possibly a riot."
"Violent instigators have hijacked peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country, including Nevada, exploiting the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd's death for their own radical agendas," US Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said in a statement.
Stephen T. Parshall, 35, Andrew Lynam, the 23-year-old Army reservist, and William L. Loomis, 40, were arrested Sunday after the alleged plan was thwarted by the Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force.
According to the criminal complaint, part of the plan began during an April "Reopen Nevada" rally in Las Vegas, where people were protesting stay-at-home orders issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
All members of the group were armed with AR-15 rifles during the rally; when approached by a confidential informant, Lynam said the group "was for people who wanted to violently overthrow the United States government," the complaint said.
The group then detailed plans of an attack during an April 25 group hike, where Lynam allegedly said he wanted to test group members by attacking a ranger station near Lake Mead.
Lynam and Parshall also discussed targeting an upcoming "Reopen Nevada" protest, using fireworks, smoke bombs, and noisemakers to "create a chaotic and confusing scene," the complaint said.
The two men, officials allege, "wanted some type of confrontation between the police and the protesters," but the plan was called off because the group believed they could not use timers to detonate the devices.
By May 27, Loomis and Parshall contacted members of the group and talked about disrupting protests that had been sparked across the country against the killing of George Floyd.
The plan included a small explosion as a distraction to draw police resources away from a Las Vegas power substation, which the men would then firebomb using fireworks and gasoline, the complaint said.
"[Lynam] instructed the group to observe the riots occurring throughout the country and use that momentum as a driving force to take action," the complaint said. "They wanted to use the momentum of the George Floyd death in police custody in the City of Minneapolis to hopefully stir enough confusion and excitement, that others see the two explosions and police presence and begin to riot in the streets out of anger."
Lynam and Parshall also attended a protest on the Las Vegas Strip on May 29, officials said, taunting police and urging protesters to turn violent.
"[Parshall] was very upset that the protests were not turning violent," the complaint said. "[Parshall] was telling protesters that peaceful protests don't accomplish anything and that they needed to be violent."
The next day, the group allegedly planned to again take part in protests in the downtown area, but the three were taken into custody after they were seen purchasing gas and ripping rags into strips to make Molotov cocktails.
Parshall had a 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, and a pistol when he was taken into custody. Loomis was carrying an AR-15 in his vehicle with six magazines.
Each of the men is federally charged with conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive as well as possession of unregistered firearms.
The Clark County district attorney's office has also charged them with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, providing material support to commit an act of terrorism, conspiracy to destroy a building with explosives, and possession of a component of an explosive device.
If convicted, the three men could each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.