supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing
spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately
targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack
Obama, federal authorities said Monday.
In all, the two
men whom officials described as neo-Nazi skinheads
planned to kill 88 people -- 14 by beheading, according to
documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson,
Tenn. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white
The spree, which
initially targeted an unidentified predominantly
African-American school, was to end with the two men driving
toward Obama, "shooting at him from the windows," the
court documents show.
stated they would dress in all-white tuxedos and wear
top hats during the assassination attempt," the court
complaint states. "Both individuals further stated
they knew they would and were willing to die during
spokeswoman traveling with the senator in Pennsylvania had
no immediate comment.
deputies in Crockett County, Tenn., arrested the two
suspects -- Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn.,
and Paul Schlesselman 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark.
-- on October 22 on unspecified charges. "Once we
arrested the defendants and suspected they had violated
federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities,"
said Crockett County sheriff Troy Klyce.
The two were
charged by federal authorities Monday with possessing an
unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a
federally licensed gun dealer, and threatening a
candidate for president.
Schlesselman are being held without bond. Agents seized a
rifle, a sawed-off shotgun, and three pistols from the men
when they were arrested. Authorities alleged the two
men were preparing to break into a gun shop to steal
city attorney in Bells, said Cowart was arrested on
Wednesday. He was held for a few days in Bells, then moved
over the weekend to another facility.
"It was kept
under lid until today," Taylor said.
Until his arrest,
Cowart lived with his grandparents in a southern, rural
part of the county, Taylor said, adding that Cowart
apparently never graduated from high school. He moved
away, possibly to Arkansas or Texas, then returned
over the summer, Taylor said.
Byrd, who has been hired to represent Cowart, did not
immediately return a call seeking comment Monday. Messages
left on two phone numbers listed under Cowart's name
were not immediately returned.
number for Schlesselman in Helena-West Helena could be found
documents say the two men met about a month ago on the
Internet and found common ground in their shared
"white power" and "skinhead" philosophy.
The numbers 14
and 88 are symbols in skinhead culture, referring to a
14-word phrase attributed to an imprisoned white
supremacist: "We must secure the existence of our
people and a future for white children" and to the
eighth letter of the alphabet, H. Two "8''s or "H''s
stand for "Heil Hitler."
Court records say
Cowart and Schlesselman also bought nylon rope and ski
masks to use in a robbery or home invasion to fund their
spree, during which they allegedly planned to go from
state to state and kill people. Agents said the
skinheads did not identify the African-American school
they were targeting by name.
special agent in charge of the Nashville, Tenn., field
office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms, and
Explosives, said authorities took the threats very
"They said that
would be their last, final act -- that they would
attempt to kill Senator Obama," Cavanaugh said. "They didn't
believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get
He added: "They
seemed determined to do it. Even if they were just to
try it, it would be a trail of tears around the South."
An ATF affidavit
filed in the case says Cowart and Schlesselman told
investigators the day they were arrested they had shot at a
glass window at Beech Grove Church of Christ, a
congregation of about 60 black members in Brownsville,
Nelson Bond, the
church secretary and treasurer, said no one was at the
church when the shot was fired. Members found the bullet had
shattered the glass in the church's front door when
they arrived for evening Bible study.
"We have been on
this site for about 120 years, and we have never had a
problem like this before," said Bond, 53 and a church member
for 45 years.
is continuing, and more charges are possible, Cavanaugh
said. He said there's no evidence -- so far -- that others
were willing to assist Cowart and Schlesselman with
At this point,
there does not appear to be any formal assassination plan,
Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said.
"Whether or not
they had the capability or the wherewithal to carry
out an attack remains to be seen," he said.
Zahren said the
statements about the assassination came out in interviews
after the men were arrested last week.
Service became involved in the investigation once it was
clear that an Obama assassination attempt was part of
this violent, far-reaching plot.
discount anything," Zahren said, adding that it's one
thing for the defendants to make statements, but it's not
the same as having an organized assassination plan.
Helena, on the Mississippi River in east Arkansas's Delta,
is in one of the nation's poorest regions, trailing
even parts of Appalachia in its standard of living.
Police Chief Fred Fielder said he had never heard of
reported threat of attacking a school filled with black
students worried Fielder. Helena-West Helena, with a
population of 12,200, is 66% black. "Predominantly
black school, take your pick," he said. (Lara Jakes
Jordan, AP, with contributions by Erik Schelzig, Jon
Gambrell, and Eileen Sullivan)