A 20-year-old former Texas State University student who was arrested on federal child pornography charges is a member of a dangerous white supremacist group and was posting “disturbing” videos and photos on social media that led the FBI to believe he could be the next mass shooter or bomber.
Benjamin Bogard, of New Braunfels, Texas, was arrested February 1, 2019, on a charge of possession of child pornography, according to court records in the Western District of Texas. On February 21, federal prosecutors argued at a detention hearing that Bogard should remain in custody without bail because of his online postings, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
But his attorney argued that Bogard was just fantasizing and trying to gain likes and followers and had no intention of carrying out any dangerous acts. According to federal authorities, Bogard was a member of the Atomwaffen Division, a Neo-Nazi group linked to several violent crimes.
After the hearing, Bogard was ordered released on $75,000 bail and home detention, according to the Express-News. He remained jailed over the weekend as arrangements were made for the conditions of his release to be met, the newspaper reports.
An investigation into Bogard’s online activities began with a tip from someone concerned he could be plotting a “bombing” or domestic “terrorist attack,” according to court documents. During that investigation, FBI agents said they found a video depicting child pornography on Bogard’s phone. He was arrested on a charge related to that video, but is not currently facing any terrorism, weapons or threats charges.
Here’s what you need to know about Benjamin Bogard:
1. Bogard Was Posted Photos of Himself Doing a Nazi Salute Along With a Video of Him Shooting a Shotgun & Talking About Shooting Minorities While Racking the Gun
Benjamin Bogard was interviewed by FBI agents Kristian Spindel and Task Force Officer Randy Reyes at his parents’ home in New Braunfels, Texas, on January 25, 2019, according to court documents. “Bogard was interviewed regarding Internet-related posts involving domestic terroristic threats that included threats of mass violence,” according to the criminal complaint filed against Bogard.
Bogard gave the FBI agents consent to search his phone, according to court documents. On January 29, the FBI reviewed stored videos in the phone’s downloads folder and found an 18-second video that depicted a minor female child being sexually assaulted by an adult male in her bed while asleep, according to the criminal complaint. The video was dated November 24, 2018, the FBI said.
According to the complaint, another image depicting child pornography dated October 14, 2017, was found during an additional search. The photo showed four images of a prepubescent girl being sexually assaulted, according to court documents.
During a detention hearing on February 21, FBI agents testified about the tips that led to the investigation into Bogard, the San Antonio Express-News reports. An agent said Bogard talked online about wanting to kill minorities, embraced white supremacist beliefs and discussed obtaining a chemical substance to make a bomb, the newspaper reports. Agents said if they had not received the tip, he could have carried out the “mass violence.”
In early November, a tip was sent to Crime Stoppers in Albany, New York, by a person alerting authorities to Bogard’s Instragam account. The tipster provided screenshots from the now-deleted Instagram account to police that showed he belonged to the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, the FBI said. The photos showed Bogard making a Nazi salute and wearing a mask of a skull that covered half his face, a signature of the Atomwaffen group.
According to the Express-News, the FBI said another video on the Instagram account showed Bogard shooting a shooting a shotgun in a wooded area. On Twitter, Bogard responded to a discussion over firearm parts by writing his favorite part is “the part that kills 30 babies per trigger pull.”
Bogard searched online for “buildings to bomb” and for information about white supremacist Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, who killed nine black worshipers in 2015. He also had several photos of Roof on his phone and searched for how to build a gun, according to the FBI.
The FBI agents testified that Bogard’s Instagram account also featured chats with someone in which he talked about buying a gun and ammunition and “going ham on the state capitol” and another video of him racking his shotgun and talking about shooting minorities while making derogatory comments about them, the Express-News reports. His phone also had several videos of violence and gore, including hangings, beheadings and executions in the Middle East, the FBI said.
In other online postings, Bogard said he “no longer wanted to shoot up a school,” and expressed suicidal ideations. When questioned by the FBI, Bogard admitting to owning the social media accounts, but told agents, “this was all an online persona and he had no intent to do mass violence,” Spindel testified, the Express-News reports.
2. He Is the Son of a Retired Air Force Sergeant & Dropped Out of Texas State After the Spring 2018 Semester
Ben Bogard is the son of a retired Air Force sergeant and lived around the world during his childhood because of his father’s career. Online records and social media posts show that he lived in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Ramstein, Germany. Bogard and his family settled in New Braunfels, Texas, in recent years after his father took a civilian military job.
Bogard, who became an Eagle Scout in 2014, was a student at Texas State University studying engineering until he dropped out before the fall 2018 semester. The university said he studied there during the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 before leaving the school voluntarily.
Bogard’s father, Robbie Bogard, testified during his son’s detention hearing that the younger Bogard went missing in October 2018 and his family hired a private investigator to find him, according to the Express-News. His father told the judge his son had traveled to Dallas to buy a van and a shotgun, the gun he was seen shooting on Instagram, according to the Express-News. His father turned over the shotgun to agents.
Bogard has no previous criminal record.
3. His Father & Attorney Claim Bogard Was Just Performing on Social Media as Part of an Online ‘Edgelord’ Persona, but Prosecutors Say He Was Building Up to Mass Violence
Benjamin Bogard’s father and attorney argued during the detention hearing that the 20-
year-old college dropout wasn’t capable of actually committing violence and was just taking part in an online fantasy to get likes, followers and attention.
His attorney, Michael Morris, told the judge that his client was an “edgelord,” someone who acts edgy and offensive to gain attention on social media, the San Antonio Express-News reports. Morris argued that his client wasn’t accused of committing any crimes through his social media activity and never followed through on his rhetoric.
His father told the judge his son is not violent and had told him he didn’t want a job “where he would have to kill people. … He’s a good kid, a good son, has always done well in school. That’s the Benjamin I know. The Benjamin here, we heard edge(lord), that’s what I’m seeing from what I heard today. We always knew there was a secretive side to him. We didn’t know all that that involved,” Robbie Bogard testified, according to the Express-News. He added that he and his wife would get counseling and mental health treatment for their son if he was released.
Prosecutors disagreed with the arguments made by Bogard’s attorney and father, according to the Express-News. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Thompson told the judge, Bogard’s posts showed “threats of violence against every minority I can think of” and were “beyond disturbing.”
Thompson said, “He can say, ‘It’s not me, its only an online fantasy,’ but it’s his reality. The hateful propaganda that he’s putting out there is disturbing.” Thompson said Bogard showed a fascination and admiration for Dylann Roof and appeared to be building up to mass violence with his shotgun purchase, the Express-News reports.
“He said he wanted the attention,” Thompson told the judge, the newspaper reports. “That’s why people go shoot up churches, to get attention.”
4. Bogard, Who Faces Between 5 to 20 Years in Federal Prison if Convicted of the Child Pornography Charge, Will Be Released on House Arrest at His Parents’ Home
Benjamin Bogard faces between to 5 years in federal prison if convicted of the posession of child pornography charge. Judge Henry Bemporad ordered Bogard to be released from custody on $75,000 bail with several conditions, including home detention at his parents’ house in New Braunfels, Texas. He is also not allowed to access the internet, must receive mental health treatment and is subject to electronic monitoring.
Prosecutors could appeal the judge’s decision to release Bogard, according to the Express-News.
Bogard is scheduled to return to court for his arraignment on March 5, 2019.
5. Several Members of the Atomwaffen Division Have Been Arrested in Connection to Violent Crimes, Including Murder
According to the FBI, Benjamin Bogard was a member of the Atomwaffen Division, a dangerous Neo-Nazi group that was founded in 2015, according to ProPublica. Several other members of the organization, which includes an online community and local chapters that meet in person, have been accused of violent crimes in recent years.
In May 2017, 18-year-old Devon Arthurs, a former member, killed two of his roommates who were also members of the group because he had converted to Islam and they ridiculed him for it, according to authorities.
Another roommate, Brandon Russell, who was one of the founders of the Atomwaffen Division, was not home at the time of the shootings because he was at National Guard training, according to court documents. Russell was arrested on federal explosives charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.
In December 2017, 17-year-old Nicholas Giampa, who had talked about being an Atomwaffen member, killed his girlfriend’s parents because they forbid her from dating him because of his hateful views, according to authorities. Giampa shot himself, but survived, and is facing murder charges.
Samuel Woodward, who attended Atomwaffen Division events and training camps, was charged in January 2018 with killing an openly gay Jewish college student, Blaze Bernstein, who was his former high school roommate.