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National Guard member sought out extremists, planned attack on police

Francis P. Harker was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison

A former National Guard member who admitted in pleading guilty to a weapons charge that he sought out violent extremists and discussed a potential attack on Virginia Beach police was sentenced Monday to four years and nine months in prison.

Francis P. Harker, 22, of Norfolk, pleaded guilty to possessing several firearms while he was regularly using LSD and other drugs. He was sentenced Monday based on that offense, but prosecutors said it was “just the tip of the iceberg.”

A backpack in Harker’s car trunk contained ingredients for molotov cocktails, prosecutors said, and Harker “admitted to interacting online with members of a group called ‘The Base,’ ” a violent white-supremacist and anti-government group.

A magistrate judge found in November that Harker “traveled to Colorado to meet with the leader of a violent extremist group,” but the group is not named in court records.

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Harker’s public defenders said he was “vulnerable and isolated,” suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and drug addiction, and was interested in white supremacism for the shock value and not out of ideological conviction. They had requested a sentence of three years in prison.

“His drug use, along with his untreated ADHD, caused Mr. Harker to delve deeper and deeper into a fringe ideology and make increasingly warped decisions, culminating with the choices leading to this prosecution,” his attorneys said in a sentencing brief.

Authorities said they found messages and images in which Harker threatened violence, praised Adolf Hitler or disparaged Black people, including one blood-spattered image with the phrase “Rape the Cops.”

Harker and another man, who is not named in court documents, vented online in June 2020 about curfews and roadblocks in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents filed with Harker’s plea.

The other man shared a diagram showing how he might trap and kill police officers in Virginia Beach, and said he was about to go “full Dorner,” referring to Christopher Dorner, who killed three law enforcement officers and another victim in California in 2013, according to plea documents.

Harker said it would be “manageable” to interrupt an “unjust stop” by police, adding that the other man’s plan looked “good” and that the “fact that vehicles won't be able to negotiate the terrain is really good,” according to his plea.

The FBI searched Harker’s home in November and found a rifle, a Glock and a semiautomatic rifle, along with LSD and other drugs. Prosecutors said Harker bought the semiautomatic rifle on the same day in June 2020 in which he discussed the attack on Virginia Beach police with the online associate.

“He engaged in numerous other activities on the Internet involving violent, racially-motivated extremism, particularly focused against law enforcement officers,” prosecutors said of Harker in a sentencing memo. “And while employed in the National Guard, he stole blank COVID-19 vaccination cards and mailed them to associates.”

Harker joined the Virginia National Guard in 2018 and was discharged last year because of the case against him, his attorneys said in a court filing.