COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - The group of white men, arrested for conspiracy to riot at Saturday's gay pride event in Idaho, strategically planned their operation and were dressed for a fight, according to court documents.
According to Kootenai County prosecutors, Coeur d'Alene police officers believed that the 31 men, suspected of being part of a nationwide white supremacist group, intended to incite physical confrontation and cause disorder at the North Idaho Pride Alliance’s Pride in the Park event. Court documents obtained by FOX 13 say that the group had been strategizing this altercation for quite some time, with military-style drills and an outline of the operation.
It was discovered through information online that Thomas Rousseau, one of the members arrested on Saturday, was allegedly the leader and founder of Patriot Front. During his arrest, authorities seized documents from him that outlined a thorough plan of attack for the event on June 11.
Court records show that Rousseau's documents included a manifesto that discussed the group's purpose for being there, which was to raise a voice against the moral depravity which permits events, such as pride events, to take place.
Investigators also found documents outlining call locations, primary checkpoints, drill times, prep times and observation windows. There were GPS coordinates for a drop point with two backup plans, referencing using smoke grenades at the discretion of a "column coordinator," court documents said. The exit strategy was also outlined saying, "Once an appropriate amount of time and confrontational dynamic has been established."
On Saturday, a concerned citizen called police saying a group of men, who looked "like a little army," were loading themselves into the cargo area of a U-Haul truck. The caller reported members of the group wearing similar clothing, masks, and even carrying riot shields. According to court documents, the identity of the caller will remain anonymous throughout the investigation, due to the group allegedly being part of Patriot Front, a white nationalist and neo-fascist hate group known for being violent.
Local law enforcement staffed extra personnel on Saturday due to credible intelligence indicating there would be groups coming into town intending to seek out oppositional contact with other crowds gathered in downtown Coeur d'Alene. When the U-Haul carrying the group was stopped by authorities, multiple officers, troopers and SWAT officers responded as a safety concern, since there were more than 20 people in the truck.
Idaho State Patrol Trooper Archer was one of the first officers on scene during the arrest, and he noted the group's attire and equipment:
"As I was observing each person, I noted the similarity and uniformity of their clothing. They were wearing primarily blue shirts and tan pants. Several of the Individuals had a ‘Patriot Front’ patch on the arm of their shirt. Nearly all were wearing a hat, face mask, and sunglasses. Several of the individuals were wearing hard plastic shin guards and other protective gear. The majority of the hats had a hard plastic-type insert inside the hat, similar to a hard hart worn by construction workers. The adorned equipment was similar in nature to our law enforcement riot control equipment utilized when we are anticipating a physical altercation."
Authorities say they found a smoke grenade, multiple fashioned metal shields, flags on abnormally long metal poles and voice amplification devices in the back of the U-Haul.
Those arrested came from at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Arkansas. Thomas Rosseau, who had a Texas driver's license, told officers he traveled to Coeur d'Alene to peacefully exercise his first amendment rights. Another suspect, Wesley Van Horn from Alabama, was told by an officer that he traveled a long way for his cause. Van Horn replied, "We go where we are needed."
Among the people arrested, five had ties to Washington state: Colton Brown of Ravensdale, Michael Buster of Spokane, James Johnson of Concrete, Justin O’Leary of Des Moines and Spencer Simpson of Ellensburg.
Patriot Front is a white supremacist neo-Nazi group whose members perceive Black Americans, Jews and LGBTQ people as enemies, said Jon Lewis, a George Washington University researcher who specializes in homegrown violent extremism.
Their playbook, Lewis said, involves identifying local grievances to exploit, organizing on platforms like the messaging app Telegram and ultimately showing up to events marching in neat columns, in blue- or white-collared-shirt uniforms, in a display of strength.