Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes told NBC Seattle affiliate KING-TV that he believes the action “prevented a massacre.”
Kaleb James Cole, 24, who is believed to be the leader of the Washington state cell of Atomwaffen, was labeled an “extreme risk” in a court order that allowed police to seize the weapons under the state’s “red-flag” law. The statute allows law enforcement to remove guns from people believed to be a threat. Cole, who was not arrested nor charged with any crime, is now prohibited from owning guns for a year under the Extreme Risk Protection Order obtained against him.
“This is a hate-filled human being, but unfortunately one who possesses really alarming numbers of weapons,” Holmes told KING-TV.
Police seized five military-style assault rifles, a shotgun, three semiautomatic handguns and other gun components, according to officials.
The Atomwaffen Division reportedly has several chapters in the U.S. Members have been linked to five homicides, and the group is under investigation by the FBI. Followers hold so-called “hate camps” to share ideology and fighting techniques to prepare for a “race war,” ProPublica has reported.
Cole is an admitted member. Police believe he has helped organize hate camps and provided firearms training, according to court documents.
“It appears that he has gone from espousing hate to now taking active steps or preparation for an impending ‘race war,’” Seattle law enforcement authorities said in their court petition last month to obtain the order against Cole.
Cole was permanently banned from Canada last year because of concerns about his links to a “terror” organization, according to the petition.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the group as a terror organization that aims to use violence for “apocalyptic, racial cleansing.”
The Atomwaffen Division is among the most extreme groups of a rising threat of right-wing violence in the U.S., something the Trump administration rarely addresses.
The far right accounted for 73% of extremist murders in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, compared with 23% by Islamic extremists. In a Capitol Hill hearing earlier this year, Kevin McAleenan, who was then acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security but has since left the position, described white supremacist violence as a “huge issue” and an “increasingly concerning threat.”