Wednesday, July 18, 2018
News Roundup

Defendant in neo-Nazi murder case was ISIS sympathizer, detective wrote


TAMPA — His two Tampa Palms roommates were dead, shot multiple times in the head and chest with an assault rifle. One had a pistol tucked in his waistband as he lay on the floor.

Suspect Devon Arthurs, 18, introduced himself to police as "Khalid." He expressed anger toward the U.S. government. He "wanted to speak about politics and his involvement with the Islamic State," an officer wrote.

Arthurs also said he needed psychiatric help. "He doesn’t feel like a monster," a detective concluded, "but he doesn’t feel sane."

Those were among details to emerge Wednesday from a nearly 400-page Tampa police report that is part of the state’s murder case against Arthurs.

Arthurs told a detective he joined a neo-Nazi organization at 14 and converted to Islam at 17.

"He is sympathetic to ISIS," police Detective Kenneth Nightlinger wrote.

The ISIS references in the report include little context and in some cases are surrounded by blacked-out paragraphs. The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office released a redacted copy of the report in response to a public records request.

In one of the surviving passages, an officer said Arthurs spoke of U.S. airstrikes in Mosul, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, "which fueled his beliefs and anger against the U.S. government."

Previously released court documents stated that Arthurs told detectives he killed his roommates because they disrespected his newfound faith.

Investigators collected at least nine spent bullet shell casings in the apartment that victims Andrew Oneschuk and Jeremy Himmelman shared with Arthurs and fellow roommate Brandon Russell, according to the report.

The report suggests they were fired from a WASR-10, a wood and black metal assault rifle. It is a Romanian-made variant of the AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle.

Police found hundreds of rounds of 7.62mm ammunition in 24 boxes, plus dozens of loose rounds and a fully loaded 30-round magazine. The ammunition is the type used in the WASR-10.

Russell recently pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession of a destructive device and storage of explosive materials. That case stemmed from the discovery of numerous bombmaking materials in a garage adjacent to the apartment. He is awaiting sentencing.

Arthurs claimed his roommates were planning acts of domestic terrorism, but Russell was not accused of any terrorism-related crimes.

Arthurs, meanwhile, awaits trial on state murder charges.

Among other new details in the report:

• After the shootings, Arthurs visited an office in the apartment complex and spoke with people inside. What he said has been redacted from the report. But it was enough for the property manager to follow him outside and later call police. As he walked away, she said he was pulling at the back of his pants.

• People in the Green Planet Smoke Shop fell to the floor when Arthurs entered and began waving the Glock. He proclaimed that he was Muslim, according to the report. When a woman told him she was also Muslim, he became agitated. He broke items in the store, then told an employee to get him a Coca-Cola.

•?When officers arrived, they confronted Arthurs at gunpoint. He asked if he could finish his drink before they handcuffed him.

•?Detectives interviewed Arthurs’ father, Druid Arthurs, near his home in Orlando. He described his son’s ideologies as "ever-changing." In 2014, he said he found a package, addressed to his son, which held a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. When confronted, Arthurs challenged his father physically, according to the report. His father kicked him out of the house. Arthurs later went to live with his mother.

The last time Druid Arthurs had seen him was in April when he and Russell came to visit. Arthurs told his father that he and Russell traveled to Detroit, Chicago and Boston to buy and sell guns.

•?Russell, a Florida National Guardsman, told police he met Arthurs online when they both lived in Orlando. They were like "the best of friends," he said. They met Himmelman and Oneschuk through a mutual friend of Russell’s.

He said all four of them considered themselves "National Socialists." He and Arthurs started Atomwaffen Division, a small-time neo-Nazi group.

Himmelman and Oneschuk had occasionally bullied Arthurs, but their disagreements were never physical, Russell said.

•?The day of the shootings, Arthurs became angry after people ridiculed his Islamic faith during an encrypted conversation with members of Atomwaffen, he told the detective.

•?That day, Russell participated in a National Guard drill. When he returned after 5 p.m., he went into the apartment. Through an open bedroom door, he saw Himmelman lying on a futon. He thought he was asleep. He went into another room and sat on a sofa, then heard the police outside. It was then that he saw a gunshot wound to Himmelman’s head.

•?As officers descended on the apartment, they heard screams coming from inside. Russell then ran out, distraught and crying. Officers put him in handcuffs. After they entered the apartment, they found Himmelman and Oneschuk.

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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