A Florida man and admitted neo-Nazi is facing federal charges after police say they found explosives in his Tampa apartment while investigating the killings of two of his roommates by a third housemate.
Brandon Russell, 22, was arrested after his friends, Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, were fatally shot, Tampa Police and federal authorities say.
Devon Arthurs, 18, has been charged with murder in their deaths. All four men were affiliated with the “Atomwaffen Division” neo-Nazi group, but Arthurs told police he decided to kill Himmelman and Oneschuk after converting to Islam, according to court documents.
Police say Russell is not connected to the double homicide case, which you can read more about here. But homicide investigators found explosives and chemicals while searching Russell’s home after the killings. He has been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material, federal prosecutors say.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Russell Came Home From Army National Guard Duty to Find His 2 Roommates Dead of Gunshot Wounds
Brandon Russell came home from Army National Guard duty on May 19 and found two of his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, dead of gunshot wounds to the head in the Tampa apartment leased in his name, federal authorities say.
FBI Special Agent Timothy Swanson wrote in an affidavit that Russell, dressed in full U.S. Army camouflage, was outside the apartment “crying and visibly upset” when Tampa police officers arrived there with the suspect in the killings, Devon Arthurs, who lived with Russell and the two victims. Arthurs told police Russell was his roommate and “did not know what was going on.”
According to Swanson, Arthurs told police all four men “had been friends who shared a common neo-Nazi belief, until Arthurs recently converted to Islam.” Arthurs told investigators his roommates, “disrespected his Muslim faith.” He told police, “he had become angered by what he described as the world’s anti-Muslim sentiment and wanted to bring attention to his cause.”
Tampa Police said Arthurs killed the two men with a rifle.
After killing his roommates, police say Arthurs went to a nearby smokeshop with his rifle and took two people hostage. The situation eventually ended peacefully, with Arthurs surrendering to officers. He told the hostages he was upset because America was “bombing his Muslim countries,” according to police.
Arthurs used the phrase “Allah Mohammed” upon arrest, Tampa police say. While walking to a patrol vehicle, he made references to “Allah Mohammed!” and said, “I had to do it. This wouldn’t have had to happen if your country didn’t bomb my country,” police said.
2. The FBI Says the Explosives & Chemicals Found Inside Russell’s Home ‘Constitute a Bomb’
During a search of the Tampa home, police found a cooler containing explosives, FBI Agent Timothy Swanson wrote in his affidavit in support of the criminal complaint that led to Brandon Russell’s arrest on federal charges. You can read the full affidavit above.
The cooler contained “a white cake-like substance that two FBI and TPD bomb squad technicians immediately recognized through their training and experience as HMTD (an explosive also known as hexamethylene triperoxide diamine,” Swanson said.
The investigators also found nearby “explosive precursors,” including potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate, more than one pound of ammonium nitrate, nitro methane, hexamine and citric acid, among other things, Swanson said. Additionally they found electric matches and empty 5.56 caliber ammunition cases “with fuses that could be used to detonate destructive devices once the HMTD was combined with the casing.”
Swanson said, “I know that the HMTD found in the garage combined with the amount of ammonium nitrate and nitro methane found in the garage would constitute a ‘bomb'” under federal law.
The ammonium nitrate was in a package addressed to Russell, Swanson said. Russell told investigators the HMTD located in the garage was manufactured by him and that he also owned the explosive precursors police found.
Russell claimed that he used the HMTD in 2013 while he was a member of the engineering club at the University of South Florida, telling the FBI it helped to “boost homemade rockets and to send balloons into the atmosphere for testing.”
“Based on my training and experience, HMTD is too energetic and volatiles for those types of uses,” Swanson wrote in the affidavit.
Swanson said the AFT confirmed on May 20 the HMTD found in the garage is an “explosive” and can be made into a “destructive device” under federal law when combined with the other chemicals found at the home.
The ATF also said Russell could not legally store the HMTD in the garage or residence, and there was no record of any registration of a destructive device by Russell.
3. He Posted Online as ‘Odin,’ the Leader of the ‘Atomwaffen’ Neo-Nazi Group
Russell was the leader of the neo-Nazi group “Atomwaffen,” which means “atomic weapon” in German. He posted online using the name “Odin” on a message board used by the group, IronMarch.org.
He has been posting about the Atomwaffen Division since at least 2015.
“The ATOMWAFFEN DIVISION is a group comprised of many members, and has been many years in the making, at least 3 years. Our exact numbers are not to be talked about too publicly but we are over 40 members strong,” he wrote in a post about the group. “Large concentration in Florida, various smaller chapters throughout the US, such as Chicago, Texas, and New England, Boston, New York, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, Oregon, Virginia, and a few others.”
Arthurs also posted on the message board, using the names TheWeisssewolfe and Kekman, but his conversion to Islam caused him to leave the board and angered some members. He remained friends with Russell and their two roommates, who first joined Atomwaffen while they were living in Massachusetts and later moved to live with Russell and Arthurs in Tampa, according to message board posts.
Russell, posting as Odin, explained what the group does:
We are very fanatical, ideological band of comrades who do both activism and militant training. Hand to hand , arms training, and various other forms of training. As for activism, we spread awareness in the real world through unconventional means. [keyboard warriorism is nothing to do with what we are.]
We also do hunting, adventuring, and a group favorite is urban exploring. We have various specialists in the group ranging from many occupations.
Joining us means serious dedication not only to the Atomwaffen Division and its members, but to the goal of ultimate uncompromising victory. With this means only those willing to get out on the streets, in the woods, or where ever we maybe in the world and work together in the physical realm. As stated earlier, no keyboard warriorism, (we do however do alot of hacking, you won’t hear about this though) if you don’t want to meet up and get things done don’t bother.
A white supremacist site, The Daily Stormer, said the members of the “Atomwaffen,” “made just one mistake,” which the site says was trusting a convert to Islam (while using an offensive slur for members of the faith.)
The site’s author, Andrew Auernheimer (better known as weev), a wrote, “Atomwaffen are a bunch of good dudes. They’ve posted tons of fliers with absolutely killer graphics at tons of universities over the years.”
The site posted part of a chat thread in which members talked about Arthurs, and said, “All three of these people were known to us. I have personally had a conversation with the Islamic murderer months ago, where I implied he might be a federal agent. I had just banned him from our Discord server for being shady as all hell and trying to get people to convert to Salafism, an especially violent and wicked form of Islamism.”
RadarOnline, in January, wrote an expose on the Atomwaffen, which the site said are “a group of neo-Nazi nerds” who “have been recruiting new members at top tier American universities.” The site added that the “Atomwaffen Division, are considered a potential threat because they’re aligned with Islamic terrorists and are encouraging attacks on the United States.”
According to posts on the Atomwaffen message board, the group has posted racist, white supremacist fliers at universities including the University of Central Florida, Old Dominion University and the University of Washington, among other colleges.
4. Police Say They Found Nazi Propaganda & a Framed Photo of Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh in Russell’s Bedroom
According to federal court documents, police found “Nazi/white supremacist propaganda,” including “a framed photograph of Oklahoma City-federal-building bomber Timothy McVeigh,” on Russell’s dresser in his bedroom.
Investigators also found firearms and ammunition.
“Additionally, upon entry into the premises by the bomb technicians, their pagers alerted to what was determined to be two radiation sources (thorium and americium).
FBI Agent Timothy Swanson said Russell “admitted to being a national socialist” before asking for a lawyer.
“Russell also admitted to his neo-Nazi beliefs and that he was a member of a self-organized group called the “Atomwaffen,” Swanson wrote.
Devon Arthurs, the accused killer of Russell’s roommates, told investigators, “for some time before the murders, he had been privy to Russell participating in online neo-Nazi internet chat rooms where he threatened to kill people and bomb infrastructure.”
5. Russell, Who Faces Up to 11 Years in Prison, Was Taken Into Custody in the Florida Keys & Is Being Held at a Federal Detention Center in Miami
Russell was arrested on Sunday, May 21, after a traffic stop in the Florida Keys, the Miami Herald reports. The FBI appeared to be searching for Russell after determining the explosives in his home were not legal for him to possess and were being illegally stored.
He was taken into custody by deputies from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and transferred to the FBI. He is facing charges of possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material.
The possession charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and is a felony. The unlawful storage charge is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of one year in prison.
Russell was being held at the Miami Federal Detention Center after his arrest and remained there on Monday, according to online records. It is not clear when he is set to appear in court.
He is being prosecuted by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida and the investigation was led by the FBI’s Tampa field office.
It is not clear if Russell has hired an attorney. He could not be reached for comment.