A 27-year-old Texas man was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison today for his role in calling in a bomb threat to Alfred Street Baptist Church, as well as other “swatting” incidents against a U.S. Cabinet member, journalists and Old Dominion University.
John Cameron Denton of Montgomery, Texas, a leader with the Atomwaffen Division neo-Nazi group, participated with three others in at least 134 swatting attacks around the country between October 2018 and February 2019. He pleaded guilty last year after being arrested in a sting operation to committing an offense against the United States and interstate threats to injure.
Alfred Street Baptist Church was targeted on November 3, 2018, because it has a mostly Black congregation. A then-U.S. Cabinet official living in Northern Virginia was also harassed in 2019, as well as two swatting incidents at Old Dominion University in 2018.
Swatting is a harassment technique where the caller deceives first responders at targeted locations.
“In each instance, conspirators selected the targets and called emergency dispatchers with false claims of pipe bombs, hostage takings, or other violent activity occurring at the targeted locations,” according to the DOJ. “As a result of these swatting calls, police were dispatched to Old Dominion University and the Alfred Street Baptist Church, and individuals in each location were required to shelter in place while the bomb threats were investigated.”
During the sting operation, Denton admitted to personally choosing to “swat” the New York City office of ProPublica and an investigative journalist at the publication who published information on his identity and connection to the group. Denton also told the undercover officer that he used a voice changer when making the calls and that he hoped to be “raided”, because his arrest would be good for the image of the Atomwaffen Division.
“The reprehensible conduct in this case terrorized communities across our Nation, as innocent Americans simply tried to attend school, practice their faith, and exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement. “The defendants caused irreversible trauma to the victims of these hate-based crimes. This case sends an unmistakable message that those who target individuals because of their race, religion, or any other form of bias, will be identified, apprehended, and brought to justice.”