New documents in the case against Brandon Thibodeau uncover disturbing details about his neo-Nazism and plans for mass violence. At the time of his arrest back in May, which LCRW covered, some of the details about the extent of Thibodeau’s plans and preparations were unclear, but transcripts of his May 26th detention hearing, which still only contains some of the state’s evidence against him according to prosecutors, outline the extent of Thibodeau’s arsenal as well as some of his proposed targets. The documents can be read in full here and here.
Thibodeau, who had previously made a threat of violence against his school which he says arose from bullying that he experienced there, was 20 years old at the time of his arrest. In California one must be 21 or older to own a semi-automatic centerfire rifle. Agents found a “lower receiver with drilled markings” as well as an upper receiver and a stock and buffer tube at Thibodeau’s residence. It seems that he was in the process of building an unserialized AR at the time his home was searched, although his charges only relate to the suppressor which he purchased from Ali Express and which is illegal in California. The rifle lower wasn’t finished, and Thibodeau claims that once he found out doing so would be illegal, he decided to wait until he was of legal age.
According to court documents, the suppressor was labelled as a fuel filter. However, prosecutors claimed the device “cannot function as a fuel filter without extensive modification.” Thibodeau’s package was intercepted by DHS Homeland Security Investigations agents who identified it as “a fully functioning firearms silencer, as received, with no modifications.” Previously, LCRW had assumed that Thibodeau purchased a “solvent trap” which can be easily modified into a suppressor, and his defense still claims that. But if the device was already functional it seems that he ordered it as such from Ali Express. Thibodeau also had at least one 30 round magazine, which is illegal to possess in California unless purchased before California’s magazine ban or during a brief period in 2019 when the ban was stayed, colloquially known as “freedom week”.
Court documents state that Thibodeau had little experience with shooting, having been shooting only five times in his life. Thibodeau was taken to the range by a local former fire chief and SWAT instructor, and other than that he had taken a couple of trips to the desert to shoot with family and shot one competition at a local range.
Thibodeau, who had tried and failed to join the US Military, also had an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia, including a Nazi helmet, Mein Kampf, and The Turner Diaries. He also had notebooks containing images of Jewish people being hanged, Black people being shot, photos of Dylann Roof captioned “the bad days will be over soon”, and a “a photo of an individual holding a firearm that at the top states, “Kill Cops,” and at the bottom says “Body Tax” (phonetic).” “Body tax” appears to be an illusion to the meme culture phrase “bottom text.” Thibodeau had written slogans like “it’s not illegal to be white… yet” in his notebooks along with his “life goals” which included “Learn[ing] how to create mock models of guns because” – BC – “because prepared and do the real deal.” Thibodeau also seems to have believed he had a past life, and it was in the “past life” section of his notebook that he wrote ““I have a fantasy of mowing down hordes of men with a machine gun.”
These notebooks also contained what seem like a detailed set of plans for future actions. Among them plans for an AK style rifle, the statement “I am restoring my kingdom,
my empire, my life,” a “handwritten note about assassinations” and extensive research in to how to manufacture triacetone triperoxide, an unstable explosive and a document titled “how to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom”. There was also the statement in Thibodeau’s handwriting “The fact makes assassinating” – ineligible word – “targets essential.”
In LCRW’s previous reporting we had mentioned the several pipe bomb containers in various stages of production that Thibodeau had in his possession at the time of the raid. These are described in court as “a metal pipe with threading on both ends.” And “another metallic, spherical item, with a brown middle, that is an end cap.” There were also longer sections of unthreaded pipe and a vice set up at the approximate width of the pipe. Thibodeau also seems to have researched triggers for booby traps, and instructions on how to make bombs using components like those found in his home. Thibodeau also had a US map with the location of FBI field offices marked on it.
Thibodeau also had what appear to be several more targets. His notebook contained the address of Darren M. Popkin, a sheriff’s deputy involved in the raid that killed Boogaloo martyr Duncan Lemp. He also had the address of a prominent Black author who has been a target for both mainstream and extremist right wing media, the address of a prominent anti-racist musician, and a photo of a circuit attorney involved in litigation against the KKK in his notebook.
“[T]he government has an unwavering conviction, Your Honor, that up until the day of his arrest, [Thibodeau] was on a pathway to violence that would have occurred in a mass-casualty event,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kareem Salem said in his testimony.
The combination of ideology, equipment, and targets in Thibodeau’s possession indeed points towards a national plan for violence, but currently he is only on trial for charges relating to the suppressor he ordered from Ali Express. Thibodeau’s cell mate in the detention facility he was held in reported that when he asked Thibodeau what he planned to do with the silencer Thibodeau responded “I don’t know. We will see.”
Hopefully, we won’t.
James Stout is a San Diego-based journalist. You can donate to him on Cash App at $jamesstout and Venmo at @james-stout-5.
LCRW will ALWAYS publish ALL of our content free-of-charge for the public good. Our work is supported by readers like you!!
I'm a broke journalist and run this outlet mostly out-of-pocket. I would love nothing more than to be able to dedicate 100% of my time to doing this coverage.
Support for LCRW has allowed me to travel to report, make ends meet every month, and even buy gear and software licenses for my work. I can't thank the folks who donate enough.