Hate groups face sweeps by police

Sacramento Bee, July 12, 1999
By Gary Delsohn and Sam Stanton

Moving to deter any new hate crimes in the Sacramento area, local sheriff's and police officials began a sweep of dozens of homes over the weekend to visit people believed to be members or followers of white supremacy groups.

The move by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and Sacramento police came amid the intensifying probe into last month's three synagogue arsons and was aimed chiefly at adherents to the World Church of the Creator.

"It was just to see if we can develop a sense of what we can expect from them in the future," said sheriff's Lt. John McGinness, who confirmed the visits but declined to comment further.

But one source said detectives and officers visited the homes of more than four dozen local followers of hate groups and the message delivered was plain: "We know what your beliefs are, and we are watching closely."

The move, part of a continuing campaign by local law enforcement to rein in such groups in the wake of the synagogue fires, has drawn denunciations by local members of such groups who say they have been harassed repeatedly in recent weeks.

"They came to my work and pulled the tough-guy routine," said one World Church member who gave his name as Chris Evans and said he was 19. "They tried to get me fired.

"They said, 'We know you know something. You better tell us or someone is going to go to jail.' They said there's a reward and they would make a deal with the first person who talked."

Local hate-crime and gang unit investigators have been focusing closely on such individuals since the June 18 synagogue arson fires that caused more than $1 million in damages.

Much of the focus has been on members of the East Peoria, Ill.-based World Church of the Creator. Sources said over the weekend that fliers from the so-called church were among a large amount of hate literature discovered after the arrests of brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams, 31, and James Tyler Williams, 29.

The Williams brothers, both of the Redding area, are expected to be charged soon in the July 1 double slayings of a prominent Redding area gay couple and are being held on possession of stolen property charges.

They also have surfaced as the chief suspects in the synagogue arsons, and federal agents spent much of the weekend in Redding searching for evidence in the case.

Sources have said searches after their arrests last Wednesday uncovered a large amount of weapons and ammunition, as well as a list of 32 names of prominent Sacramento area Jewish and civic leaders.

The Williams brothers have been described as deeply devout Christians who often preached and prayed in public. Such behavior appears to contradict the notion that they had involvement in the World Church, which takes anti-Semitic and anti-Christianity stands.

"These guys sound to me like Christian Identity followers," said Michael Reynolds, executive director of the Intelligence Report, the hate-group monitor operated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "These guys aren't going to be the Church of the Creator."

Both groups believe in white supremacy and are anti-Semitic, but followers of the World Church believe Christianity "makes people weak," one Sacramento church member said, and that there is no afterlife. Sacramento-area members of the group say they have been questioned two or more times by authorities since the synagogue arsons, particularly because racist, anti-Semitic literature bearing the group's name and logo was distributed at one of the burned temples two months earlier.

"Stories linking us to the synagogue fires are grossly misinformed," said a member of the group who identified himself as "Reverend Nick" and said he was a salesman. He declined to give his last name, he said, because his boss wouldn't approve of his views.

"They're trying to make a connection where there is no connection. It's pure speculation and it's outright slanderous. They're obviously barking up the wrong tree. Apparently, that's not evident to them at this point, but I'm sure it will be at some point and we'll be cleared."

Half a dozen members of the World Church who live in or around Citrus Heights and Fair Oaks agreed to be interviewed over the weekend by The Bee and nonchalantly professed their hatred of nonwhites while gathered in a Carmichael pizza parlor.

Most were in their early 20s and wore numerous tattoos or shirts proclaiming white supremacist slogans. One couple was accompanied by their 7-month-old daughter, who played on the table with a rattle while her parents discussed their philosophy.

Evans, who also said he works as a salesman, said he has no compunction about admitting his racist and anti-Semitic views, but he said he refused to cooperate with the FBI-led investigation.

"They came to my door and said, 'Are you a member of the church?' " Evans said. "And I said, 'Hell, yes, I'm a member.' They asked for fingerprints, too, but I saw no reason to cooperate with them."

Several members of the group, including Nick's wife, Brandi, wear a tattoo on their shoulders that says "Delenda est Judaica," Latin for "Destroy the Jews," and another tattoo spelling "RaHoWa," which they say is an abbreviation for "racial holy war."

Jews, African Americans, Asians and virtually anyone not just like them are the enemy, these young, self-professed haters explained.

"I'm not going to deny the fact that we hate because obviously we do," Nick said. "What we prefer to be called is a racial loyalist group."

While members of the group say they disavow violence and prefer to spread their message through books and leaving thousands of racist fliers on people's doorsteps, they called the recent FBI scrutiny no surprise.

"If I was in law enforcement I'd probably be scrutinizing us too," Nick said. "I have nothing against the agents. They're doing their jobs. They're just wasting their time."

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