Michael Karmo and Cody Smith are accused of being militia members from Missouri who were in illegal possession of firearms in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as unrest unfolded in the Wisconsin city over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
A witness told authorities that Karmo said “people were going up to Kenosha and ‘picking people off’; however, Karmo did not state that he personally would do that.” However, the complaint also accuses the witness of alleging that Karmo said he “was going to go to Kenosha with the intention of possibly using the firearms on people. (The witness) feared that with Karmo’s increase in conspiracy theory talks and other ‘crazy’ political talk he was not in the right mind set to have a firearm.”
Karmo, 40, and Smith, 33, of Missouri were arrested on September 1, 2020, at a hotel in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, near Kenosha, the scene of repeated unrest since the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“The Kenosha Police Department advised FBI that a law enforcement agency in Iowa had received a tip that Karmo and an unidentified male were in possession of firearms and traveling from Missouri to Kenosha, Wisconsin,” a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice reads.
“FBI agents subsequently located and detained Karmo and Smith at a hotel in Pleasant Prairie, which is located near Kenosha.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Complaint Affidavit Says a Tipster Also Accused the Men of Going to Kenosha to ‘Loot’
On September 1, 2020, at approximately 4:22 p.m., the Kenosha Police Department advised FBI that a law enforcement agency in Iowa “had received a tip that Karmo and an unidentified male were in possession of firearms and traveling from Missouri to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to loot and possibly ‘pick people off.'”
The tip provided a telephone number for Karmo. The FBI also received photographs of text messages between Karmo and the tipster. “The communications reflected that Karmo sent a photograph of himself holding a rifle and another white male holding what appeared to be a shotgun. Karmo sent another picture of a rifle with a drum-style magazine in it. Karmo included the message, ‘This is the game changer’ with the photo.”
The complaint alleges that the FBI’s Milwaukee Area Violent Crimes Task Force was involved in the investigation.
It says that karmo is accused of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, along with other charges.
“Law enforcement has been engaged in monitoring and responding to civil unrest and violence occurring in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23, 2020,” the complaint affidavit says.
“That evening, violence erupted. Rioters set fire to and damaged numerous buildings and vehicles, including arson to local businesses involved in interstate commerce, public buildings, and law enforcement property. Several people have been injured. Wisconsin’s Governor declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard was sent to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Many roads in Kenosha were closed to traffic, and the interstate highway exits near 3 Kenosha were closed during the unrest, restricting interstate commerce. Unrest and looting continued, with confrontations between large groups of rioters and law enforcement on August 24 to August 25, 2020.”
The complaint continues: “On the evening of August 25, 2020, reports and video show numerous shots fired, including an armed individual who is charged with killing two people and injuring one person. Civil unrest continued to varying degrees in Kenosha over subsequent days, and the unrest regularly received national media coverage. A visit by the President of the United States planned for September 1, 2020, also received national media attention.”
2. The Facebook Page of Karmo, Who Was a Firefigher, Is Filled With Pictures of Guns & Political Commentary, Including Remarks About America Falling & COVID-19 Being a ‘Hoax’
Photos on Karmo’s Facebook page shows weaponry. His page claims he’s a “private contractor.” It also indicated he was a firefighter, saying, “Studied Fire Science Technology / Firefighter / EMT at Southwestern College.”
“The Facebook page showed multiple pictures of an unidentified subject, believed to be Karmo, in possession of firearms, including assault-style rifles,” the indictment reads.
Authorities included these pictures in the complaint from Karmo’s Facebook page.
The page says he went to Westhills and Chaparral High Schools and lives in Branson, Missouri. His most recent visible post reads, “Free nowledge for the taking …” The post continues, “Children of Issachar – According to the Targum they were all astronomers and astrologers: “and the sons of Issachar, who had understanding to know the times, and were skilled in fixing the beginnings of years…”
He opposed wearing face masks to protect from COVID-19, writing, “The only reason you’ll ever catch me wearing a face mask is if im robbing a bank . or this one to really block all the heavy metals and chemicals we are being exposed to…”
He showed a dark view of the world, writing, “You see most of the world has already been enslaved…America still is the third worlds only hope . we fall the entire planet will be lost.” In another post, he wrote, “This is the plan . 200 years + there never been a mail in vote . now it’s a big deal . why? There some bullsh** unlawfully fake law that says if is president has not been declared after Jan 20th . the speaker of the house becomes president . are we gping to allow that .?”
With a photo showing him with a large gun, Karmo wrote, “Like my ancestors before me I could spend the rest of my life a free and happy man hunting my food . … They ain’t ever going to be able to starve me and my family and friends out … Tenderloins and back straps every night.”
With an August news story of a Black man accused of shooting a child in the head, he wrote, “How much more will we take ? when is enough enough ?How much longer before good men in the sheriffs department local police fbi home land security get off there knees and take action ? We all have to look ourselves in the mirror and know america fell on our watch … Who could live with that.”
He also argued that COVID-19 is a hoax, writing, “and this is the true reason behind the entire coup we are seeing unfold with this whole covid hoax . even older news now.”
3. Karmo Is Accused of Playing ‘Rambo’ in His Backyard & the Men Were Heading to a Trump Rally
According to the indictment, the citizen told authorities that Karmo “frequently walked around with a firearm in his waistband and played ‘Rambo’ in the backyard with various firearms.”
The informant had seen Karmo “with 3-4 guns in his possession within the last few months. He bought firearms through the mail and manually put the firearms together himself ‘shaving down the firing pin’ and making the firearms untraceable to law enforcement,” the indictment says.
Smith told authorities that he and Karmo traveled from Missouri, where they lived together, to Kenosha “for the President Trump rally on September 1, 2020. After their visit to Wisconsin, they intended to travel to Detroit, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Smith described that he had an uncle in the Northwest who owned a dispensary and could supply them with marijuana.”
The indictment adds, “Smith stated they attended the rally for President Trump outside of the high school in Kenosha. Smith stated they wanted to see proof of the rioting. He reported that both of the pistols were locked in the glove compartment of Karmo’s vehicle while they were at the rally. They brought the guns because they did not want to leave them unattended in the hotel room.”
4. The Indictment Says the Men Are Part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia
Karmo granted an interview to authorities, saying that he and Smith “have been roommates in Hartville, Missouri, for approximately four weeks. They worked together and are part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia,” the indictment says.
It says that Karmo and Smith decided to drive to Kenosha to “see for themselves” what was going on regarding the riots. “On the way, they stopped in Iowa to visit someone Karmo knew. Karmo stated that he was offended because this individual commented that Karmo and Smith looked like they were heading to Kenosha to shoot people.”
He said they went to the Trump rally, and were planning to go to Portland next. “Karmo stated that he would be willing to ‘take action’ if police were defunded,” the indictment says, adding that he claimed he didn’t own any guns other than an air rifle. He added that five years before, he wrote a letter to his sons saying “he had a calling to leave California and learn to live off the land.”
5. Authorities Found Weaponry Including an Assault Rifle, Handguns & Body Armor, the Indictment Says
According to the indictment, after “receiving consent to search Karmo and Smith’s vehicle and hotel room, FBI agents recovered an Armory AR-15 assault rifle, a Mossberg 500 AB 12-Gauge shotgun, two handguns, a silencer, ammunition, body armor, a drone, and other materials.”
Authorities obtained location data for Karmo’s phone number and realized it was in the area of a La Quinta Hotel & Inn in Pleasant Prairie, not far from Kenosha.
A Toyota Highlander was parked at the hotel, and Karmo and Smith gave the FBI consent to search it. Found therein, according to the complaint:
A black EP Armory AR-15, with muzzle device and optic, in gun case, bearing no Serial Number;
A Mossberg 500 AB 12-Gauge shotgun, bearing Serial Number 086982; A Taurus PT92AF 9mm handgun, bearing Serial Number TIA60420; d. A homemade silencer-type device; Four (4) 30-round 5.56×45 caliber rifle magazines. One was empty, one had two rounds, and two were partially loaded with green-tip ammunition; Two (2) 15-round, 9mm, handgun magazines, unloaded; A black Ruger case containing two (2) 17-round, 9mm pistol magazines, fully loaded, plus three (3) 9mm rounds; and many more items, including a drone, knife, and marijuana.
More weapons were found in the men’s hotel room, the indictment says.
The indictment says that Karmo has prior felony convictions. “Smith has a prior misdemeanor domestic battery conviction and acknowledged regular drug use,” the press release says. “Consequently, both Karmo and Smith were prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition on September 1, 2020.”
Karmo “has prior convictions for vehicle theft, burglary, violation of parole, felon in possession of firearm, evading peace officer resulting in injury/death, receive known stolen property, and possession of controlled substances in California, some of which are felonies. Therefore, Karmo was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition on September 1, 2020,” the indictment says.
Smith “has a prior 2009 misdemeanor domestic battery charge from the State of California: Riverside County Case Number INM194727. According to the complaint in that matter, the victim was a spouse, ex-spouse, individual with whom Smith had been cohabitating, or individual with whom SMITH had a child. Therefore, Smith was prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition on September 1, 2020,” it reads.
According to the indictment, “A download of Karmo’s phone revealed multiple photos of firearms, including a photo of Karmo in possession of a firearm. In addition, Karmo’s text messages are consistent with his distribution of methamphetamine and Percocet.”
The complaint says that Smith stated that he and Karmo “regularly smoked marijuana after work. He stated that he used marijuana as a form of self-medication almost every night. SMITH also stated he used cocaine and methamphetamines in the past.”
When discussing his criminal history, Smith “explained that when he was approximately 24 years old, he caught his girlfriend cheating on him and wrecked her car. At the time, Smith and his girlfriend lived in California. She pressed charges and Smith was arrested for domestic abuse. Smith claimed not to remember the details clearly because he was using marijuana.”