Justin Olsen, 18, was arrested after FBI agents found online posts in which the teen appeared to advocate violence against federal officers and organizations such as Planned Parenthood. During a search of his home in Boardman in northeastern Ohio, investigators found a large supply of weapons and ammunition.
Officials arrested Olsen on August 7, 2019. The Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor, Michael McBride, told local NBC affiliate WFMJ-TV that after seeing the online statements, investigators decided to move forward with the case quickly due to the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Olsen was booked into the Mahoning County Jail and faces a charge of “Threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer.” A detention hearing was scheduled for Friday, August 16.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. FBI Agents in Alaska First Noticed Concerning Online Statements Justin Olsen Made on a Chat Room Called iFunny
Justin Olsen came to the attention of the FBI after agents at the Anchorage, Alaska, division began looking into the online chat room on the website called iFunny. According to the criminal complaint, the website was created as a platform for users to share memes and humorous images.
The agents took notice of an account called “ArmyofChrist” in February of 2019. The user had written multiple posts “supporting mass shootings, and assault and/or targeting of Planned Parenthood.” The investigators kept an eye on the account for several weeks and observed that “ArmyofChrist” was quickly gaining a following. By March, the account had 4,400 subscribers following its updates. The FBI issued a subpoena to iFunny in order to obtain the corresponding email address for the “ArmyofChrist” account.
In June of 2019, “ArmyofChrist” got into an online conversation with another iFunny user about the 1993 siege in Waco, Texas. (The 1993 standoff lasted 51 days after state and federal officials raided the compound inhabited by members of a religious sect called the Branch Davidians for 51 days. The siege ended after a fire consumed the building. 76 people died including 25 children).
The affidavit states that at some point during this conversation, Olsen appeared to advocate violence. He wrote, “In conclusion, shoot every federal agent on sight.”
That statement prompted FBI officials to contact Google to find out the user’s real name. The email address “firstname.lastname@example.org” was registered to Justin Olsen in Boardman, Ohio. The case was transferred to the FBI office in Youngstown for further investigation.
2. FBI: Justin Olsen Wrote That Armed Resistance Was a ‘Viable Method for Political Change’
According to the criminal complaint that was filed in the Northern District of Ohio, Justin Olsen had also been writing about stocking up on weapons and using violence to inspire change in the United States.
The FBI stated in the complaint that Olsen’s online comments included, “don’t comply with gun laws, stock up on stuff they could ban. In fact, go out of your way to break these laws, they’re f*cking stupid.”
Olsen also referenced the 1995 attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City. “Hell, even the Oklahoma City bombing shows that armed resistance is a viable method of political change. There is no legal solution.”
3. Agents Searched Justin Olsen’s Parents’ Homes & Seized Weapons & Ammunition
FBI agents first executed a search warrant at Justin Olsen’s mother’s home on August 7, 2019 on Presidental Court in Boardman. The complaint states that investigators were instructed to seize “any computers, cellular devices, hate related literature and firearms.”
Justin Olsen was not there. Neighbors told the investigators that Olsen had been living with his father at a home on Oakridge Drive.
The agents went to the house owned by Eric Olsen, Justin’s father. That’s where they found and arrested Justin. He gave officials permission to search the house and his vehicle.
Inside, FBI agents found 300 rounds of ammunition on the stairway. Olsen’s bedroom contained a computer and an iPad. It was in his father’s bedroom where officials observed “rifle cases, approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition, camouflage clothing and camouflaged backpacks” along with a gun vault.
According to the complaint, Eric Olsen opened the gun vault for investigators. It contained several AR-15 style rifles and shotguns. Agents seized 15 rifles and shotguns as well as 10 semi-automatic pistols.
A search of Justin Olsen’s vehicle also revealed a large machete in the trunk.
4. Justin Olsen Insisted That the Online Statements About Violence Were Intended as a Joke
Justin Olsen was initially arrested on state charges including aggravated menacing of a police officer and telephone harassment, according to WFMJ-TV. But the state charges were dropped after the federal charge of “Threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer” was filed.
According to the FBI, Olsen admitted to writing all of the online comments about violence. But he insisted that they were “only a joke.”
In regards to the comment about shooting “every federal agent on sight,” Olsen said that was about what happened in Waco, Texas in 1993. He explained that it was a “hyperbolic conclusion based on the results of Waco, Texas siege” and “where the ATF slaughtered families.”
Olsen was arrested and booked into the Mahoning County Jail. A detention hearing was scheduled for Friday, August 16.
5. Justin Olsen Lives in Boardman, Ohio & Turned 18 in May of 2019
Justin Olsen told FBI agents that he had been living with his father for a few weeks prior to his arrest. Both of his parents have homes in Boardman, a census-designated area in Mahoning County, Ohio. It is located a few miles south of Youngstown. He turned 18 in May of 2019.
A Facebook page that appears to belong to Olsen shows that he attended Boardman High School. His favorite quote was listed as “Relativity applies to physics, not ethics” by Albert Einstein. The page does not contain much more information, other than to suggest that Olsen plays golf and tennis.