The boogaloo cases

A new brand of anti-government extremism has led to arrests across the nation. Authorities say it's also resulted in the killings of a sheriff's deputy and a federal security guard.

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At first glance, the so-called “boogaloo” movement might look eccentric, even a little quirky. Steeped in meme culture, some of its adherents wear Aloha shirts in public and don patches with images of igloos. Even its name is an inside joke hidden behind layers of irony.

But the sentiment driving the movement is much darker and deadlier than its aesthetics let on: the idea that the U.S. is on the brink of a second Civil War (aka “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo”) and that a few armed men might be able to use violence at the right moment to push it over the edge.

The movement is so new that it’s hard to explain exactly what it is or where it came from. Experts in the field seem to at least agree that it’s a type of anti-government extremism, but there are differing opinions on how it began, whether there is a cohesive ideology behind it, or whether it can even be described as a movement at all.

The most thorough and nuanced look at the movement was published last month by journalists Robert Evans and Jason Wilson over at Bellingcat, and it showed how disjointed the cause really is. Essentially, its DNA is opaque to the closest of observers and possibly even to its own members.

What is clear, however, is that authorities and researchers have linked multiple crimes, including the killings of a law enforcement officer and a federal security guard, to boogaloo believers in recent months. And that makes it a movement worth paying attention to. Additionally, there’s evidence that members of this extremist movement have sought to co-opt the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests taking place nationwide to further their own agenda.

So setting aside the debate about what it is, I wanted to take a closer look at what it has brought about. Below is a list of incidents, in no particular order, that have been tied in one way or another to alleged boogaloo adherents.

1. California (Oakland and Santa Cruz County)

Two men, Robert Justus Jr. (pictured at left) and Steven Carrillo (right), met in late May in a Facebook group, where they discussed how to use the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests to further the boogaloo cause. Federal court records show that the pair met up the next day, drove to the protests in Oakland, California, and staked out the nearby federal courthouse, which had two guards on duty outside. With Justus allegedly at the wheel, they drove by the guard post while Carrillo allegedly opened fire with an assault-style rifle. One of the guards was killed and the other was wounded.

Eight days later, Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a house in Ben Lomond, California. When they arrived, Carrillo, an active duty Air Force sergeant, allegedly ambushed them with the same rifle. One deputy was killed and the other was wounded. Before his arrest, Carrillo managed to scrawl the word “boog” and another boogaloo-linked phrase in blood on the hood of a vehicle. He was finally arrested a short time later.

2. Nevada (Las Vegas)

Three men, who authorities said were part of a Nevada-based boogaloo Facebook group, were arrested in a joint effort by local and federal authorities in May while they were allegedly in the late stages of a plan to attack law enforcement at a Black Lives Matter protest and firebomb a power substation in Las Vegas. Stephen Parshall (pictured at left), Andrew Lynam (center), and William Loomis (right), who all have ties to the military, are now facing state terrorism and explosives charges as well as federal conspiracy and weapons charges.

3. Colorado (Denver)

In late May, police in Denver seized a cache of guns from the vehicle of boogaloo adherents near a Black Lives Matter protest. One of the adherents, Chevy Lee McGee, 20, later posted about the incident on Facebook, according to the Colorado Times Recorder news site. “Shout out to Denver PD for stealing our shit last night,” McGee reportedly wrote. “None of this left the trunk of our car, and they said they had reasonable suspicion because someone called that’s why they searched it. They cuffed us and let us go after 30 minutes.” No arrests were made.

4. Texas (Dallas)

A bodybuilder and personal trainer from Lancaster, Texas, was arrested in June by federal authorities on charges of conspiring to sell steroids. Authorities said Philip Russell Archibald, 29, was tied to the boogaloo movement, a point prosecutors made during a hearing that resulted in him being kept in jail while awaiting trial. His Facebook page showed photos of him posing with a rifle and taking part in Black Lives Matter protests in Dallas while wearing a pink Aloha shirt. The May 29 post on Facebook also carried the hashtags #boog and #boogbois.

5. Texas (Texarkana)

In April, while driving through Texarkana, Texas, Aaron Swenson, 36, allegedly livestreamed a video on Facebook, saying he was out looking for a lone police officer to ambush. Police got word of the video from 911 calls and eventually tracked Swenson down. He allegedly ended up leading them on a high-speed chase in his pickup truck before finally surrendering peacefully. BuzzFeed News reported that Swenson had been sharing boogaloo memes on Facebook for months prior to his arrest. Police arrested him on suspicion of making terrorist threats against an officer, evading detention with a vehicle, and unlawfully carrying a weapon.

6. South Carolina (Columbia)

Two men in their 20s were arrested in June for what local authorities said was their role in starting a riot during a Black Lives Matter protest in late May in Columbia, South Carolina. Joshua Barnard, 24, and Kevin Ackley, 22, were both identified by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department as members of the boogaloo movement.

Investigators seized four guns and a blue Aloha shirt (pictured above) from Barnard and arrested him on June 4 on suspicion of breaking into a motor vehicle, looting, larceny, aggravated breach of peace, and instigating a riot. He was arrested for a second time on June 12 in what appears to be an unrelated case on suspicion of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

Ackley was arrested on June 5 by the sheriff’s fugitive squad on suspicion of inciting a riot and aggravated breach of peace. The sheriff’s department said he threw a water bottle at a member of law enforcement during the protest. They also said he was an emergency medic working for the county and was fired from his job the day of his arrest. Authorities released photos of items seized from Ackley, including a hat with a patch on it that read, “Boojahideens for Liberty,” as well as an Aloha shirt.

7. New York (Troy)

Police in Troy, New York, took a group of men into custody near a Black Lives Matter protest in June. The Times Union newspaper reported the men were wearing body armor. One of them was Noah Latham, a 22-year-old active duty soldier, who was accused of carrying an loaded “ghost gun” without a New York permit.

The Informant reviewed a Facebook page that appears to belong to Latham and carries the disclaimer: “the opinions represented on this page are not those of the US Army.” It shows he posted multiple memes and other content supporting the boogaloo movement in the weeks before his arrest. In a May 31 post, for instance, he used the term in parentheses: “Liberty (boogaloo) protesters are on the same side as the George Floyd protesters, don't let the media tell you otherwise. The guns and gear are to protect the freedom of those exercising their first amendment rights.”

See also: Missouri (Belton)

While not technically part of the boogaloo movement, the case of Timothy Wilson, 36, shows how the term itself has seeped into other extremist subcultures. Wilson held membership in the National Socialist Movement, a decades-old neo-Nazi group, and planned to blow up a hospital in the Kansas City area using a vehicle bomb. According to the Kansas City Star newspaper, Wilson referred to his plan as “operation boogaloo.” The FBI attempted to arrest him in March at a storage facility in Belton, Missouri, where he had been keeping the makings for explosives, but Wilson shot and killed himself before authorities could take him into custody.

Correction, July 17: This article has been updated to reflect that the victim shot to death in Oakland, California, was a federal security guard and not a sworn member of law enforcement.

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