ADL Applauds Law Enforcement for Preventing Killing Spree and Obama Assassination Attempt
New York, NY, October 27, 2008…The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today congratulated law enforcement for uncovering and preventing what the League called "potentially the most deadly racist shooting spree in many years, including an assassination attempt on presidential candidate Barack Obama."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Crockett County, Tennessee Sheriff's Office opened an investigation that resulted in the arrest on October 22 of Daniel Cowart, 21, of Jackson, Tennessee, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Arkansas. The white supremacists were charged with suspicion of possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threats against a major candidate for the office of president.
"The arrests of these dangerous white supremacists prevented what could have been the most serious act of domestic terrorism in recent years," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "This case shows how extreme ideologies easily lead to extreme actions."
Mr. Foxman praised the federal and local law enforcement officers whose actions prevented the potential violent acts. "We congratulate the officers and agents with Crockett County and the ATF whose vigilance exposed a terrorist plot and saved lives."
Though the two suspects had only known each other for about a month, both suspects were known to experts at ADL's Center on Extremism, which had been tracking their white supremacist activities.
Cowart had recently been involved with Supreme White Alliance, a hardcore racist skinhead group with members from several states, mostly in the Midwest. In April, Cowart even attended a Hitler's Birthday celebration held by the group in Cincinnati. The previous month he handed out racist fliers in front of a local Wal-Mart.
ADL, which regularly conducts training sessions for law enforcement on extremism and extremists, provided, on request from ATF, information on the two suspects, their associates and contacts, and on the Supreme White Alliance and its membership.
Schlesselman and Cowart allegedly informed officers they were planning a "killing spree" that would involve killing 88 people and beheading 14 African-Americans. Both numbers have symbolic significance to white supremacists. The number "88" is code for "Heil Hitler," while "14" is a reference to the "14 Words," a white supremacist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
Court documents indicate the two suspects discussed a multi-state killing and robbing spree, to include targeting a predominantly African-American school. The murder spree would allegedly end with an attempt to assassinate presidential candidate Barack Obama with a high-powered rifle.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.