According to the FBI, more than 60 people have been killed in American mass shootings in 2019, alone.
Last month, in less than 24 hours, two high-profile mass shootings resulted in 31 fatalities in two states. Twenty-two people were killed in the anti-immigrant, white nationalist shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3. Just a few hours later, nine victims were shot dead in Dayton, Ohio when a young man opened fire on a crowded street in the city’s entertainment district. Among the dead identified by police include the shooter’s brother, who identified as transgender.
The public outrage in the wake of the two shootings reignited the debate over gun control in a country that boasts more guns than people. So far, just like the time before and the time before that, nothing has changed.
Meanwhile, the FBI reported earlier this year a 17 percent year-over-year increase in federal hate crimes across the U.S., the third consecutive yearly rise and the largest jump in federally reported hate crimes since the Sept. 11 attacks. The annual report showed 7,175 bias crimes were reported in 2017 (the latest year on file), involving 8,828 victims. Victims targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity comprised 1,470 — or nearly 17 percent — of all victims.
The problems associated with mass shootings and hate crimes exist everywhere in this country of ours. Las Vegas is not immune to it. We know this to be true because on Oct. 1, 2017, the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the history of the U.S. happened on the Las Vegas Strip.
Several incidents have taken place in Las Vegas recently, where the LGBTQIA+ community was specifically targeted. It has been a sobering wakeup call to remind us that despite the many LGBTQIA+ political and social victories of the past few years, we remain a target for hate groups and violent people.
WHITE SUPREMACIST PLANNING MASS SHOOTING ATTACKS ARRESTED BY FBI
Conor Climo, a 23-year-old Las Vegas man, was charged and arraigned in federal court Aug. 12, in connection to an Aug. 8 arrest in which bomb-making materials and an unregistered firearm were found at his home during an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation.
According to local news reports, Climo had worked as a security guard for a local company, Allied Universal.
The criminal complaint said FBI agents began looking at Climo in April when they learned he was communicating with a white extremist that “believes in the superiority of the white race and have a common goal of challenging the established laws, social order, and government via terrorism and other violent acts.”
The organization encourages attacks on the federal government, including critical infrastructure, ethnic and racial minorities and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The complaint alleges that during encrypted online conversations throughout 2019, Climo would regularly use derogatory racial, anti-Semitic and anti-gay slurs.
Climo told the FBI he’d been looking at creating an eight-man “sniper platoon” to conduct a shooting attack against local Jewish people. He admitted to agents the plan was something he had been considering for two years. The 23-year-old also claimed he was trying to recruit a homeless person to conduct surveillance on possible targets, according to the complaint.
He discussed attacking a Las Vegas synagogue and making Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices. He also discussed with the FBI that he had been conducting surveillance on a bar he believed catered to the LGBTQIA+ community on Fremont Street.
The FBI has not revealed which Las Vegas synagogue or Freemont Street bar Climo intended to attack.
During their investigation, the 23-year-old unknowingly communicated with an FBI informant online that other targets included police leadership and the headquarters for the Anti-Defamation League.
Authorities said they seized chemicals that can be used for improvised explosive devices (IED), as well as drawings of IED circuits when they executed an Aug. 8 search warrant of Climo’s home. He admitted to FBI agents that he had experi-
mented with making explosive devices for some time and that he “harbors biases and hatred toward various racial and religious groups to include African Americans, Jews and homosexuals,” the criminal complaint said.
In a journal, authorities said belonged to Climo, they found a drawing he made of two infantry squads attacking the bar that he believed catered to homosexuals with firearms from the outside and one attacking it with firearms from the inside.
Climo revealed to agents that he recently joined the white supremacist group the Feuerkrieg Division, a splinter of Atomwaffen Division, because the group “offered him glory and the ability to contribute his knowledge of constructing explosive devices toward a ‘righteous cause’ ” but that he left the group “because of its inaction,” the criminal complaint said.
“Threats of violence motivated by hate and intended to intimidate or coerce our faith-based and LGBTQ communities have no place in this country,” he said in a prepared statement United States Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada. “Law enforcement in Nevada remains determined to use the full weight of our investigative resources to prevent bias-motivated violence before it happens. I commend our partners who identified the threat and took swift and appropriate action to ensure justice and protect the community.”
“The FBI’s Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force is committed to protecting our community from any threat of domestic terrorism, and I could not be more proud of the work they did in this case,” said Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI Las Vegas Division in a written statment. “As this complaint illustrates, the FBI will always be proactive to combat threats that cross a line from free speech to potential violence.”
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force led the investigation and received support from law enforcement partners at the local, state and federal agency levels. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas Dickinson of the District of Nevada with the assistance from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe ordered Climo to remain in federal custody until his court hearing scheduled for Aug. 23. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Four years ago, Climo posted a petition on Change.org calling for the repeal of the 1986 Hughes Amendment, also known as the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which banned civilians from possessing machine guns. The petition received only 46 supporters before it was closed. At the time Climo was 20 years old.
More troubling actions surfaced in 2016. According to media reports, Climo caused concern among his neighbors when he began to patrol his Centennial Hills neighborhood with an AR-15–style rifle, four 30-round clips, and camouflaged packs.
“If there is a possibly very determined enemy, we have at least the means to deal with it,” Climo told a news reporter at the time.
What enemy? Who did Climo think was such a threat that the firepower of an AR-15-style rifle was the only means with which to deal with them? Climo was not arrested at that time. Nevada is an open-carry weapon state so as disturbing as his public display had been, he broke no laws. He ultimately scrapped his plans to patrol the neighborhood after it was reported by local media and said that he planned to join a typical neighborhood watch group.
Of course, Climo did no such thing. Instead, the FBI said Climo filled his days by doing things like visiting websites like Quora – a website where users post questions and answers – to address the question: “What are the downsides of multiculturalism?”
“To quote a Nationalist,” Climo posted on Quora, “‘your most precious possession on this earth is your people!’ “
The Nationalist he was quoting? None other than Adolf Hitler.
What’s more? Climo’s Quora profile picture is an AR-15-style rifle resembling the gun he carried in 2016 to patrol his neighborhood.
NO ARREST MADE IN GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY CENTER ARSON
On June 27, around 3:05 a.m., Las Vegas firefighters responded to a report of a fire at The Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Maryland Parkway.
Tim Szymanski, spokesman for Las Vegas Fire & Rescue said in a press release that crews arrived to find a palm tree near the entrance on fire, and the first engine on the scene was able to put it out without any damage to the building.
When employees of The Center arrived for work later that morning, security officials looked at video and found it showed a man intentionally setting the fire.
The Center called the authorities and arson investigators responded to the scene. After looking at the footage Szymanski said that LVFR ruled the fire as arson and notified the LV Metropolitan Police.
John Waldron, executive director of The Center, said a large banner that was hung above the entrance June 26, to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which began on June 28, 1969, was near the tree.
“He seemed he had ill intent in what he was doing, and it was alarming for us given that it’s pride month,” Waldron told News 3 at the time.
“They were unsuccessful, and no damage was done to the building,” The Center said on a June 27 Facebook post. “This attempted arson and hate crime against our community reinforce the need for LGBTQ+ Pride events. Our equality, rights and our lives remain at risk.”
The Center did, however, issue a reminder to the community saying: “This vengeful act reminds us to be alert, be safe, and if you see something, say something. To everyone around the world attending Pride events this weekend, let this be a reminder of why you are celebrating and why our fight for equality continues.”
It’s been nearly two months since the fire was set and nobody has been taken into custody nor has a suspect been named. That is not because police officials have dropped the ball or ended its investigation of the arson, according to officials of The Center.
Russ White, a spokesperson for The Center, told Spectrum, “We maintain a collaborative relationship with Metro with the hope of influencing positive change and practices that support and protect the LGBTQ community.”
White maintains that the relationship between The Center and local police is in good shape, saying, “Metro proactively engages Center staff to work on safety and response to any incidents that arise.”
“Officers in the Downtown Area Command regularly seek guidance from The Center on cultural competency for officers and strategies to build a supportive relationship with LGBTQ residents,” White told Spectrum.
“Metro worked alongside the FBI for several days after the fire to gather and review evidence,” he added. “They spent hours on site trying to narrow focus on potential suspects. We have confidence they made a good effort to identify a specific suspect in the tree fire incident.”
According to Waldron, days before the arsonist set fire to The Center, he received a voicemail message earlier in the week from a person that was angry about Pride flags being flown in front of the building alongside the American flag. In addition, Waldron said, The Center received a letter that had all kinds of random words on it including the word “swastika.”
White told Spectrum that although the voice message and letter were originally believed to be connected to the arson, investigators could not find anything to confirm a connection existed.
On Aug. 15, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department held a safety meeting at the Convention Center Area Command. White said The Center participated in the meeting and contributed to the discussion. Metro shared details from the arrest of Climo and answered any questions about safety and best practices when a mass casualty situation takes place. According to Metro, they will organize future meetings to continue the dialogue and inform the community.
It is the Spectrum’s understanding that approximately four businesses participated in the event. The Center’s previous security director, Toni Witten, told the Spectrum they did not have any contact information for LGBTQ-positive churches.
As the Spectrum goes to print no arrests have been made in response to the arson at The Center. Investigators said that should a suspect be apprehended for the crime; they would only face a charge of third-degree arson. The fire caused roughly $500 in damage to the tree.