(CBS4) – The FBI says it has prevented what it believes was an attempt to commit a major hate crime in Colorado. A known white supremacist named Richard Holzer was arrested late Friday night in an alleged plot to blow up Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, according to newly unsealed federal court documents.
“Federal law enforcement working in conjunction with the Pueblo Police Department has successfully stopped what we believe to be an imminent threat of domestic terrorism against a Colorado religious institution,” said Jason Dunn, United States Attorney for the District of Colorado.
“According to the complaint affidavit, Mr. Holzer self-identifies as a skinhead and a white supremacist. During the investigation, FBI agents became aware of racist, anti-Semitic and threatening statements made by Mr. Holzer on social media. Mr. Holzer repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and his support of a racial holy war,” Dunn said. “(He) indicated that he wanted to do something that would let Jewish people in the Pueblo community know that they are not welcome and that — according to him, they should leave or they will die.”
An FBI “Online Covert Employee” made contact with Holzer, 27, on Facebook. She said Holzer sent her buttons with swastikas and other items. He reportedly told her he used to be with the Ku Klux Klan.
In the affidavit, FBI investigators said Holzer, who lives in Pueblo, used several Facebook accounts “to promote white supremacy ideology and acts of violence.” For example:
- On July 11, he sent a message to a Facebook user stating, “getting ready to cap people.” He included three photos of himself dressed in clothing with white supremacy symbols, holding handguns and a semiautomatic rife.
- On Sept. 3, he told another Facebook user user, “I wish the holocaust really did happen… they need to die.”
- On Sept. 28, Holzer sent a video that showed him putting on a mask, grabbing a machete and saying,” May the gods be with me for what I must do.”
- Also on Sept. 28, Holzer sent a video of himself urinating on the front door of what appears to be a Jewish center.
- On Sept. 29, Holzer stated that he previously paid a “Mexican cook” $70 to “hex and poison” a local synagogue.
- On Oct. 3, Holzer sent a message stating, “I’m getting ready for RAHOWA,” meaning a racial holy war. He also sent a voice mail stating he was going to Temple Emanuel “to scope it out.”
- On Oct. 13, Holzer explained his plan to use arsenic to poison the synagogue in Pueblo on Oct. 31.
On Oct. 17, Holzer met with three FBI undercover agents at a restaurant in Colorado Springs. According to the affidavit, Holzer brought “various white supremacy paraphernalia as gifts for the (agents), including a flag, several patches, a metal Thor’s hammer and a mask.”
After the meeting, Holzer, an associate and the undercover agents drove to Pueblo to visit Temple Emanuel. Holzer allegedly stated that Molotov cocktails would not “be enough” and the group discussed using pipe bombs from out of state.
“Let’s get that place off the map,” Holzer reportedly stated.”This is the big center for them here in town. Thing is, why not hit the heart, right?”
According to the affidavit, Holzer explained the attack on the synagogue would be “phase two” and “phase three” would be outside of Pueblo and “bigger and better.”
On Oct. 23, one of the undercover agents sent Holzer pictures of what appear to be pipe bombs, with the message, “wanted to show you a little progress.”
Holzer later replied that he was “honored to be a part of history, and more importantly the future of our folk. Heil.”
On Oct. 31, and Nov. 1, Holzer met with undercover agents and “repeatedly affirmed that he was prepared to go through with the attack.” Holzer reportedly said he didn’t think anyone would be at the synagogue at the time but he didn’t care if they were.
The FBI agents showed Holzer fake pipe bombs and dynamite, which Holzer said were “absolutely gorgeous.”
Holzer was then arrested and allegedly admitted planning to blow up the synagogue.
“He referred to the plan as ‘my mountain’ and to Jews and the synagogue as a ‘cancer’ to the community,” the affidavit states.
“Our task force used multiple investigative techniques,” said Dean Phillips, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Colorado. “Including recorded conversations, meetings with undercover FBI agents, exploitation of social media accounts and the execution of a federal search warrant.”
Holzer is facing a charge of “attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs, through force and the attempted use of explosives and fire.”
The suspect made his first appearance in federal court on Monday on a charge of attempting to obstruct the free exercise of religious beliefs with the attempted use of explosives — a hate crime. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of no more than $250,000, or both.
Just over a year ago, in October 2018, Robert Bowers was arrested and is suspected in the killing of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh area.