Last month it was revealed that the man accused of brutally stabbing to death gay, Jewish 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania pre-med student Blaze Bernstein over the holidays in Orange County, Calif., reportedly after the victim "hit on him," is a neo-Nazi and a member of Atomwaffen, a group that has been tied to at least five murders in the past year. Now ProPublica has uncovered online conversations between members of the extremist group celebrating the slaying and praising the alleged killer, Samuel Woodward.
"I love this," said a member of Atomwaffen, a group that idolizes Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson and embraces swastikas, SS symbols, and the Totenkopf (death's-head insignia) as its identifying symbols.
Another group member called accused killer Woodward, 20, a "one man gay Jew wrecking crew" online, according to encrypted chat logs ProPublica obtained.
Woodward, a former high school classmate of the victim, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to killing Bernstein and burying him in a shallow grave in California's Borrego Park. At the time of his arrest, Woodward told police that he'd pushed Bernstein away for attempting to kiss him.
Prosecutors have said that Woodward stabbed Bernstein more than 20 times and that they are investigating the increasing possibility that the murder was a hate crime.
Prior to Bernstein's murder, Woodward cropped up in Atomwaffen chats under the handle "Saboteur" where he praised Mein Kampf and the Bosnian Civil War of the 1990s in which Serbian soldiers raped thousands of Bosnian Muslim women as part of warfare.
Serbians' raped women to "Force them to carry around the spawn of their master and enemy," Woodward lauded in Atomwaffen chat.
But Bernstein's murder is not the first to be celebrated by or allegedly committed by Atomwaffen members.
"We haven't seen anything like Atomwaffen in quite a while," Keegan Hankes, a researcher for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told ProPublica. "They should be taken seriously because they're so extreme."
Atomwaffen cells have cropped up around the country in at least 23 states, although the group's founder, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is John Cameron Denton, who goes by the handle "RAPE" online and hails from Montgomery, Texas, about 30 miles north of Houston.
"Each chapter operates independently," an Atomwaffen recruiter wrote online last summer. "We want men who are willing to be the boots on the ground. Joining us means serious dedication not only to the Atomwaffen Division and its members but to the goal of Total Aryan Victory."
Atomwaffen members are prepping for an eventual race war, according to the Anti-Defamation League. A promotional video posted in January of this year depicted members dressed in camouflage shouting "gas the kikes" and "race war now" while firing their weapons.
In addition to Bernstein's murder, the group has been tied to four other murders around the country and to a plot to blow up a nuclear facility near Miami. Additionally, members, who are armed with guns including assault rifles and who've taken part in various weapons training courses around the country, have discussed attacking public water supplies and power grids, according to ProPublica.