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MN Man Who Idolized CO Club Shooter Arrested On Gun Charges

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

A Minnesota man idolizing the shooter who killed five people at a Colorado gay nightclub and was allegedly building an arsenal of automatic weapons to use against police was arrested after a retired police officer reported him. The warning signs --similar to the circumstances before the shooting at Colorado Springs' Club Q last month -- prompted a monthslong federal investigation into River William Smith, reports the Associated Press. Smith, 20, who expressed interest in joining neo-Nazi paramilitary groups and fired an AK-47-style rifle in his home in 2019, was charged with federal weapons counts. FBI agents arrested him after he purchased three hand grenades and four auto sears from an informant. An auto sear turns a firearm into an automatic weapon.

Smith, who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Savage, told the informant that the shooter who killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub last month was a “hero,” called Black people “agents of satan,” and said he was ready to engage the police “with armor and full autos,” said an FBI affidavit. The FBI investigation and arrest was a sharp contrast to the warning signs that were ignored and earlier charges that were dismissed against Anderson Lee Aldrich, who was charged with hate crimes in the mass shooting at a Colorado gay nightclub. George Washington University Law Prof. Jonathan Turley said, "The only way to protect the public is to move expeditiously and aggressively ... It’s a cautionary tale for law enforcement: These early signals cannot be missed.” In both cases, the suspects’ grandparents had been injured in run-ins with them but had later appeared to enable their alarming behavior. In Smith’s case, authorities say his grandmother drove him to the shooting range where he was seen practicing shooting drills, firing off hundreds of rounds in a few minutes.


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