The comments were all written by an Ohio teenager named Justin Olsen, the FBI says in federal court documents. And when agents raided a home where the 18-year-old lived earlier this month, they found about 10,000 rounds of ammunition and a vault full of assault-type weapons and shotguns.
On Monday, Olsen was charged on one count of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer. His case comes as federal agencies face mounting pressure to root out homegrown terrorists in the wake of two mass shootings earlier this month and amid a national upswing in violent right-wing extremism.
Police rushed to arrest Olsen just three days after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, with a local prosecutor citing the attacks as a justification for an urgent arrest, cleveland.com reported.
In interviews with federal authorities, though, Olsen insisted that he was no violent extremist. Asked about the postings, the teen said they were “hyperbolic” and “only a joke.” His attorney didn’t immediately return a message from The Washington Post.
Olsen’s posts, which came on a meme-heavy website and app called iFunny, first caught the eye of an FBI agent in Anchorage, who noted a surge of new subscribers to the “ArmyOfChrist” account. The account’s posts included regular far-right, white-nationalist memes, reported BuzzFeed.
On June 2, the FBI says, he responded to another user writing about the 1993 Waco siege, with his advice to “shoot” federal agents. When a subpoena tracked his IP address to Boardman, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown, an agent there picked up the case and began going through past comments from “ArmyOfChrist.”
There was alarming support for violence, the FBI says, from backing mass shootings to “assault and/or targeting of Planned Parenthood.”
“Even the Oklahoma City bombing shows that armed resistance is a viable method of political change,” he allegedly wrote of the 1995 attack on a federal building that killed 168 and injured hundreds. “There is no legal solution.”
The agents tracked the account to Olsen, who had posted online that he’d earned a ROTC scholarship to the University of Texas and planned to move to Austin, cleveland.com reported.
On Aug. 7, agents swarmed Olsen’s mother’s house, but learned that he’d recently moved to live with his father. Later that day, they found Olsen and arrested him. He soon admitted to making the posts, the FBI says, but claimed the comments were all in jest.
“That’s a hyperbolic conclusion based on the results of the Waco siege,” he said of his instruction to shoot federal agents. He added that the “ATF slaughtered families” in the incident, in which 76 people died as federal agencies raided a religious sect’s compound.
Agents found plenty of firepower in Olsen’s father’s home, though it’s unclear how much of it the 18-year-old could access. There were about 300 rounds of ammunition on a stairway, the FBI says, and thousands of rounds of ammo, camouflage clothing and a gun vault in another bedroom in the house. Agents eventually seized about 15 rifles and shotguns and 10 semiautomatic pistols.
Olsen is due back in court on Friday.
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