A Missouri man who “expressed an interest in killing black people” and who has ties to a white supremacist group is facing terrorism charges after breaching a secured area to force an Amtrak train to stop in Nebraska, federal authorities say.
Taylor Michael Wilson, 26, of St. Charles, was arrested by local police in Furnas County, Nebraska, on October 22 after the train incident. Police said Wilson was armed with a handgun when he entered the train’s follow engine and began “playing with the controls” in the engineer’s seat, according to federal court documents.
He was charged in Nebraska with felony criminal mischief and use of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and later released on $100,000 bail.
After an FBI investigation, Wilson was arrested again on December 23 and charged in Nebraska federal court with “terrorism attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and against mass transportation systems,” court records show. The case was unsealed January 3.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say Wilson Had a Legally Owned Loaded Handgun, 4 Speed Loaders, a Box of Ammunition, a Knife & a Mask
Taylor Michael Wilson was arrested on board an Amtrak California Zephyr train near Oxford, Nebraska, about 2 a.m. on October 22, FBI Special Agent Monte Czaplewski wrote in an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed against Wilson. According to the Furnas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called by an Amtrak conductor after a passenger “breached a secure area of the train and triggered an emergency stop control panel, applying the emergency brakes and causing the train to stop in an expedited (emergency) fashion.”
Police said the passenger, later identified as Wilson, was detained by the train’s engineer and other Amtrak personnel. Because the train was in a rural area of Nebraska, it took about an hour for the closest deputy to arrive.
Another passenger, Bobbie Garris, told KHGI-TV in October, “We lunged forward in our seats and all the power went out, it went completely black in the train car and the emergency lighting came on which is just at your feet and it’s really sparse so we couldn’t see anything and we could smell something burning and I’m going to guess that was the brakes.” Garris said he and the other passengers sat on the train in the dark for about an hour. About 175 people were onboard.
The assistant conductor told the FBI that he felt the train in emergency braking and began searching the train for the person or incident causing it, according to court documents. He said he found Wilson in the engineer’s seat of the follow engine, “playing with the controls.”
The train’s conductor tried to subdue Wilson and get him to calm down, and Wilson told him, “F*ck that, what are you going to do, shoot me?,” the assistant conductor told the FBI. He said Wilson kept trying to break free and “several times attempted to reach towards the area of his front waistband.”
When the Amtrak staff asked Wilson why he stopped the train, they say he replied, “I want your job.”
Another Amtrak conductor told the FBI that Wilson was “lucid then would start saying crazy things about going to the moon.” He said when Wilson was removed from the engineer’s chair, he kept saying, “What are you going to do, shoot me?”
The conductor also said Wilson kept goading him and other staff by telling them, “I’m the conductor, b*tch,” while exhibiting “drastic mood swings.”
You can read the full criminal complaint below:
The first deputy to arrive to meet the train said that he handcuffed Wilson and asked him numerous times if he had any weapons, but Wilson would not reply, according to court documents. The deputy then patted down the front of Wilson’s pants and felt a bulge in his front left pocket. When he asked him what it was, Wilson replied, “my d*ck,” according to court documents.
The deputy found it was actually a fully loaded speedloader, a device used to reduce the time and effort needed to reload a gun, with .38 bullets. He also had a fully loaded .38 caliber handgun, the deputy said. He is the holder of a valid Missouri Concealed Handgun permit, according to court documents.
Police found Wilson’s backpack and said it contained three additional loaded speed loaders, a box of .38 ammunition, a hammer, a fixed blade knife, tin snips, scissors, a tape measure and respirator-style mask.
Wilson had a ticket and was traveling from Sacramento, California, to Missouri, police said. He was taken to the Furnas County Jail and charged in Nebraska state court with felony criminal mischief and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.
Along with the state charges, Wilson is accused of “illegally entering a restricted area and engaging the emergency braking system with intent to harm those aboard on an interstate rail service/carrier (Amtrak) engaged in interstate commerce,” in federal court. Czaplewski wrote in the affidavit, “that electronic devices owned, utilized and/or possessed by Wilson and firearms owned or possessed by Wilson have been used for or obtained in participation of engaging in or planning to engage in criminal offenses against the United States.”
According to the FBI, a search of Wilson’s phone uncovered documents often possessed and used by those “attempting or planning to commit criminal acts or acts of terrorism or violence”:
Several documents and pamphlets saved on the phone in PDF files, described as ‘100 Deadly Skills,’ a series of individual PDF files, each with a skill related to killing people, copies of ‘The Anarchists Cookbook’ and ‘Poor Man’s James Bond volume 5’ by Kurt Saxon, The Ranger Handbook, The Ultimate Sniper by John L. Plaster and other documents were also located in saved/downloaded files on Wilson’s phone. Based on your Affiant’s experience and the experience of others, the described documents are often possessed and utilized by individuals and groups attempting or planning to commit criminal acts or acts of terrorism or violence.
While he was in jail in Nebraska, Wilson spoke to his mother, according to court documents, and the call was recorded. He told his mother that if the FBI came she should “make sure they have a search warrant.” When she told him the media had picked up his arrest on the news, he asked “What’d, what did it say?”
She told him it said, “Armed man from St. Charles County pulled a…made his way to the engineering car of an Amtrak rail car and pulled the emergency cord and stopped the train…and that you were, had in your waistband a Smith and Wesson .38 with a reloading and other ammunition in your bag as well as wire snips and a gas mask.”
Wilson replied, “That’s it?” and his mother admonished him, saying, “You know this call is being recorded.”
Wilson’s mother later told the FBI that her son had traveled to California with his cousin to visit a college, but the trip was delayed by wildfires. He was returning home to St. Charles to attend classes on October 23. It is not clear where he was taking classes at the time.
2. He Also Had Business Cards for the National Socialist Movement & a ‘Christian Identity’ Church
Police said they also found two business cards, one for the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi white supremacist group, and another for the Covenant Nation Church, a “Christian identity church,” according to court documents.
The NSM describes itself on its website, which features “88” in its address, to be “America premier white civil rights organization … Putting family, race and nation first while fighting to secure American jobs, manufacturing & innovation.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The National Socialist Movement (NSM) is currently the largest neo-Nazi group in the United States,” with several hundred members. Founded in 1994, the NSM is led by Jeff Schoep and based in Detroit.
“In 2009, the group eschewed its Nazi-style brown shirts and uniforms in favor of black fatigue-like clothing with NSM insignia. At rallies, the members, dressed in black pants and shirts, often carry banners or shields bearing the group’s insignia, which includes a swastika and the NSM logo,” the ADL says. The NSM “calls for a ‘greater America’ that would deny citizenship to Jews, non-whites, and homosexuals,” according to the ADL.
Their activities include “literature distributions, conferences and rallies, Internet forums and blogs.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, the NSM “openly idolizes Adolf Hitler” and believes only “heterosexual ‘pure-blood whites’ should be allowed U.S. citizenship and that all nonwhites should be deported, regardless of legal status. As Schoep put it: ‘The Constitution was written by white men alone. Therefore, it was intended for whites alone.'”
The FBI said Wilson also had a business card for William Davidson, identified as the preacher at Covenant Nation Church in Oneonta, Alabama. The FBI said they interviewed Davidson and found that the church is a “Christian identity church,” which believes that “white people are part of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Christian Identity is a unique anti-Semitic and racist theology that rose to a position of commanding influence on the racist right in the 1980s. ‘Christian’ in name only, the movement’s relationship with evangelicals and fundamentalists has generally been hostile due to the latter’s belief that the return of Jews to Israel is essential to the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.”
3. Wilson Went to the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally in Charlottesville With a Shield & Bulletproof Vest, the FBI Says
Taylor Wilson’s cousin, who was traveling with him to California and was living with him in St. Charles at the time of the incident, told the FBI that Wilson “began acting strange” when they moved in together in June 2017. His cousin said Wilson had “joined an ‘alt right’ neo-Nazi group” that Wilson had found while researching white supremacy forms online.
Wilson’s parents told the FBI that they did not know where in St. Charles, Missouri, their son lived, but the FBI said they later found the apartment where he was living with his cousin is owned by his parents. The FBI also said that Wilson’s parents claimed they’d never heard of the National Socialist Movement or the Covenant Nation Church and “they had never known their son to be involved with drugs or the white supremacist movement.” They also said they didn’t know why he would have activated the braking system or “the nature of his subsequent intentions.”
The FBI said Wilson’s parents “would not discuss any discussions they had with Taylor Wilson regarding race relations,” according to court documents.
Wilson’s cousin said Taylor traveled with members of the “‘alt-right’ neo-Nazi group” to Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, for the “Unite the Right” rally. Wilson’s cousin said Wilson possibly took guns with him, but he only knew for sure that he took a “shield and a bulletproof vest.”
His cousin said Wilson “normally carries a nine millimeter handgun or a .38 caliber revolver on his person,” and also said Wilson had shown him “between 20 and 25 guns that he owns, including an AK47, AR-15s and an M-4 rifle,” which were at the apartment they shared.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Socialist Movement was among the groups that attended the August 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which turned violent and ended with a woman, Heather Heyer, being run down by an alleged neo-Nazi.
4. He Was Accused of Pointing a Handgun at a Black Woman During a Road Rage Incident & Talked About Killing Protesters
Taylor Wilson had no prior criminal record except for a traffic ticket, the FBI said, but he was investigated for a road rage incident in Missouri in 2016, according to the affidavit. The incident occurred April 16, 2016 in St. Charles.
According to police, the victim, a black woman, said a man, later identified as Wilson, in an SUV “pointed a handgun at her while driving eastbound on Interstate 70 for no apparent reason.”
Police traced the SUV to Wilson and he “inexplicably tried to turn himself in to police custody by contacting park rangers at Kiwanis Park in St. Charles, but would not state the reason. The St. Charles Police Department contacted Wilson and Wilson told them he wanted to be charged for an offense but he had nothing to say without an attorney.”
Investigators tried to find the victim to have her identify Wilson, but she was not located, so the case was “placed in inactive mode,” according to court documents.
Wilson’s cousin told the FBI that Wilson had “expressed an interest in ‘killing black people’ and others besides whites, especially during the protests in St. Louis.” His cousin said he believes Wilson is “serious about killing black people,” according to the FBI.
The protests referenced in the affidavit appear to be protests against police brutality in September 2017 after the acquittal of ex-cop Jason Stockley in the killing of a black man.
Wilson’s cousin said Wilson made statements indicating that he and his “white supremacist group were the ones who had put up some ‘Whites Only’ signs in business at an unknown location.
The FBI said that when they searched Wilson’s phone, the found video and documents depicting the placement of a white supremacist banner with the annotation “Hands up don’t shoot is anti-white fake news – altright” over an unknown highway, along with other related postings and videos. According to the Twitter account “ALT RIGHT St. Louis,” the banner was hung over a St. Louis highway on the third anniversary of the Ferguson shooting and protests.
5. Wilson Had 15 Guns, Including a Fully Automatic Rifle, More Than 1,000 Rounds of Ammo & a ‘Pressure Plate’ Used in IEDs, Hidden in His Apartment, Feds Say
The FBI searched Wilson’s apartment in St. Charles and found a hidden compartment in the wall behind a refrigerator where he stored weapons and ammunition, according to court documents. FBI agents said they found “a tactical vest, 11 AR-15 (rifle) ammunition magazines with approximately 190 rounds of .223 ammunition, one drum-style ammunition magazine for a rifle, firearms tactical accessories (lights), 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition, approximately 840 rounds of 5.45×39 rifle ammunition … several additional handgun and rifle magazines, gunpowder, ammunition reloading supplies and a pressure plate.”
According to the affidavit, the “pressure plate was described as two long rectangular pieces of metal that are separated and are designed to contact under pressure causing a full circuit. According to FBI St. Louis Special Agent Bomb Technicians who examined the evidence, a pressure plate is a common device used in the construction of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).”
The FBI said they also found “white supremacy documents and paperwork” and “a hand-made shield” in the hidden compartment.
Wilson’s father came to the apartment during the search and, after contacting his attorney, told the FBI where they could find his son’s guns. The FBI said they located 15 firearms, including handguns and rifles, along with more ammunition and firearms magazines and a “tactical body armor carrier with ceramic ballistic plates.”
The guns were examined by the ATF and the FBI said “one firearm, a Pioneer Arms Corporation Model PPS43-C rifle … was a fully automatic rifle. Further, a CZ Scorpion Evo 3 was converted to a short rifle, both in possible violation of federal firearms laws,” according to court documents.
Wilson was released from custody on $100,000 bond on December 11. In late October, during his first court appearance, a state judge ordered that Wilson undergo a competency hearing after his attorney said he was incompetant. According to the FBI, Wilson was later deemed competent to proceed. The state charges are still pending.
Wilson’s attorney told the judge, Wilson could “not appreciate … the charges against him … due to the fact that his mental health issues are currently untreated,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.
The FBI arrested Wilson on December 23 at his parent’s Missouri home. He has been in federal custody since his arrest.
Little else is known about Wilson, a St. Charles native, including if or where he was employed. Social media accounts under his name could not be located. His mother told the FBI he was taking classes in St. Charles, but it is not clear where.