Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

National Guard 'neo-Nazi' aimed to hit Miami nuclear plant, roommate says

TAMPA — Brandon Russell, a National Guardsman and self-described neo-Nazi, had plans to blow up power lines in the Florida Everglades and launch explosives into a nuclear power plant near Miami, his roommate Devon Arthurs told police.

Prosecutors on Tuesday played portions of a recorded interrogation Arthurs gave in the hours immediately after he was arrested in the killings of Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk. In the video, Arthurs offers a justification for the killings, claiming that Russell, the surviving roommate, was preparing to commit acts of terrorism.

"The things they were planning were horrible," Arthurs said. "These people were not good people."

The U.S. Attorney's Office presented the video excerpts in an effort to get U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III to revoke an order granting Russell bail, arguing that he poses a danger to the community.

Late Tuesday, the judge stayed the order. Russell will remain jailed while the judge reconsiders the issue.

Russell, 21, faces explosives charges after bombmaking materials were found at his Tampa Palms apartment May 19 during the murder investigation. Arthurs, separately, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in state court.

In the video, Arthurs sits beside a table in a white-walled interrogation room, his right leg resting over his left knee. He gestures with both hands as he casually describes Russell's neo-Nazi beliefs and supposed plans to commit terrorist acts.

He said Russell studied how to build nuclear weapons in school and is "somebody that literally has knowledge of how to build a nuclear bomb."

When a Tampa police detective asked Arthurs if his friends had any specific terrorist intentions, he said they had a plan to blow up power lines along Alligator Alley, the stretch of Interstate 75 linking Naples with Fort Lauderdale.

He also said they had a plan to fire mortars loaded with nuclear material into the cooling units of a nuclear power plant near Miami.

He said the damage would cause "a massive reactor failure" and spread "irradiated water" throughout the ocean.

"Think about a BP oil spill, except it wipes out parts of the eastern seaboard," Arthurs said.

The detective asked why they wanted to do these things.

"Because they wanted to build a Fourth Reich," Arthurs said. He said Russell idolized Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"He said the only thing McVeigh did wrong was he didn't put enough material into the truck to bring the whole building down."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine Thomas noted during the hearing that the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station is near Miami. She also noted that when bomb squad members arrived at Russell's apartment, their pagers alerted them to the presence of "two radiation sources." The criminal complaint says those were thorium and americium, both radioactive metals.

Russell's defense attorney, Ian Goldstein, noted that authorities have not charged him with possession of nuclear materials.

Peter Robbins, a spokesman for Florida Power and Light, declined to comment on what was said in court. But he said the company has extensive security.

"Nuclear power plants are among the most highly protected private-sector facilities in the nation," Robbins said. "Our plants are built with multiple layers of security and defensive features.''

Goldstein questioned Arthurs' credibility.

"Devon Arthurs is a person who just murdered two individuals, who is desperate to save himself, and, quite frankly, I think he is a few cards short of a full deck," Goldstein said. "I hope the government brings Mr. Arthurs to the trial as their prime witness. He's insane."

Arthurs, according to court records, admitted to the killings, saying Himmelman and Oneschuk had disrespected his conversion to Islam.

"I was like, 'How could I have done this?' " he said in the video played Tuesday. "If I hadn't done that, there would be a lot more people dead than just these two guys in this organization."

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

Comments
The Daystarter: Tallahassee showdown on gun bills; schools contend with threats; legal lion Barry Cohen closes shop after cancer return; Rays open Grapefruit League play

The Daystarter: Tallahassee showdown on gun bills; schools contend with threats; legal lion Barry Cohen closes shop after cancer return; Rays open Grapefruit League play

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• The 80s are here to stay, according to 10Weather WTSP. Weekend temperatures cool only slightly, to the low to mid 80s, with a low rain chance. Next week is just more of the s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

CLEARWATER —City leaders discussed building a parking structure on north Clearwater Beach for more than 15 years before the seven-story Pelican Walk Parking Garage finally opened at the start of 2017.The city paid $11.3 million to own 450 of the deve...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  — The Russians finally have a gold medal at the  Olympics, thanks to a 15-year-old who beat the fellow teen who inspired her to become a figure skater.Alina Zagitova won one of the Games' spotlight events Frida...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Legal lion Barry Cohen reveals leukemia and tells how it has changed his priorities

Legal lion Barry Cohen reveals leukemia and tells how it has changed his priorities

TAMPA — Time was, if you were in deep trouble, you turned to Barry Cohen.He kept Jennifer Porter out of jail even after her hit-and-run accident left two children dead. He got charges against Steven and Marlene Aisenberg dropped and won them $3 milli...
Published: 02/23/18
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said.That’s something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 84-y...
Published: 02/23/18
Oldsmar has a flea market, waterfront and parks... but really wants a downtown

Oldsmar has a flea market, waterfront and parks... but really wants a downtown

OLDSMAR — Wanted: One vibrant downtown. Contact: City of Oldsmar.Perhaps best known for its enormous flea market, Oldsmar sits at the top of Old Tampa Bay near the Pinellas-Hillsborough county line. On the one hand, it’s a convenient location for peo...
Published: 02/23/18
Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

PALM HARBOR — Four years ago, during a visit to Tampa, Iraqi Staff Gen. Talib Shgati Mshari Al Kenani issued a warning to military leaders here about a jihadi group calling itself the Islamic State.This week, Al Kenani, head of the Iraqi commando for...
Published: 02/23/18
It’s

It’s "Krunch" time for East Lake students

On a recent Saturday, students arrived at a Pasco County high school for an all-day scrimmage.The gym was covered in black, plastic tarps, with a course down the middle. Six teams came ready to race their robots, including one from East Lake High Sch...
Published: 02/23/18
A look at new ships and trends in cruising for 2018

A look at new ships and trends in cruising for 2018

What’s new in cruising for 2018? As usual, there’s lots of razzle-dazzle — laser tag, water slides, zip lines and massive LED screens — along with a continued emphasis on healthy lifestyle options, from dining to fitness. But there are also changes u...
Published: 02/23/18

High school scoreboard for Feb. 22

Thursday’s scoreboardSoftballBoca Ciega 4, Pinellas Park 2Admiral Farragut 7, Northside Christian 1Boys tennisOsceola 7, Dixie Hollins 0Clearwater Central Cath. 4, Jesuit 3Girls tennisOsceola 7, Dixie Hollins 0Boys basketballClass 3A, region semifina...
Updated: 8 hours ago