A self-proclaimed white supremacist pleaded guilty on Monday to plotting and preparing to bomb a synagogue and a gay bar near his Las Vegas home.
Federal prosecutors alleged that 24-year-old Conor Climo had made sketches and taken initial steps for attacks targeting religious and racial groups he hated. His plans included to firebomb a synagogue, shoot patrons of a gay bar, and target the offices of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that monitors and fights anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Climo was arrested in August, and on Monday, the former security guard pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm as part of a deal with federal prosecutors. If the plea agreement is approved by a judge, Climo will have to participate in mental health treatment and agree to computer monitoring upon his release, and he will be barred from owning weapons. Though he was eligible for up to 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors are recommending a shorter sentence.
The case is an example of the Department of Justice's efforts to prevent attacks motivated by hate, officials said.
"Law enforcement's swift action on this case, and today's resulting guilty plea, is part of DOJ's national strategy to disrupt and proactively stop potential bias-motivated mass violence," US Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said in a statement. "The defendant's threat of violence — which were motivated by hate and intended to intimidate or coerce our faith-based and LGBTQ communities — have no place in this country."
Climo — who in 2016 made local headlines when he began patrolling his neighborhood with an AR-15–style rifle — also told investigators he had planned for a "suicide mission" attack on a McDonald's restaurant.
The FBI began investigating Climo in April 2019 when, according to court documents, he began talking to a confidential FBI informant about making Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks in the Las Vegas area.
Climo told authorities he had gone so far as to hire a person who was homeless to surveil the area around a nearby synagogue. He also sent Google Maps images of targeted areas to an undercover FBI agent and visited the area around a gay bar to do surveillance and map out possible escape routes.
He had also looked to infiltrate the security company that was hired by a synagogue in hopes of learning the schedule and layout of the place of worship.
Climo communicated with white supremacist groups via the encrypted app Wire and joined Feuerkrieg Division, a splinter from Atomwaffen Division, because he believed the group "offered him glory and the ability to contribute his knowledge of construction explosive devises toward a 'righteous' cause."
Members of Atomwaffen Division have been linked to at least five deaths since 2017.
But law enforcement officials said in court documents Climo had decided to leave the group at some point because of what he considered their inaction.
According to a court order, Climo kept a journal where he talked in great detail about feeling unhappy and having suicidal thoughts, as well as keeping sketches about possible attacks.
"HIs journal discusses his disdain for people of the Jewish religion, which appears to be driven by his lack of money and an anti-Semitic trope that people of the Jewish religion control money," said a court order seeking to keep him incarcerated during his trial.
Before he was under federal investigation, Climo had caught the attention of local news outlets in 2016 when he decided to walk the streets of his neighborhood with camouflage packs, an AR-15-style rifle, and multiple ammunition magazines.
According to an interview at the time, he claimed he was patrolling in order to be ready from a "very determined enemy," though he would not specify what or who that threat might be.
When authorities carried out a search warrant at his Las Vegas home in August, officials found chemicals and other materials that could be used to make improvised explosive devices.
Climo's arrest and prosecution was part of the Department of Justice's Disruption and Early Engagement Programs, which aim to prevent possible mass shootings before they occur.