Another Obama Assassination Plot foiled

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Hat Tip: Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Law enforcement agents have broken up a plot by two neo-Nazi skinheads to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and shoot or decapitate 88 black people, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Monday.

In court records unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn., federal agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target a predominantly African-American high school in a murder spree that was to begin in Tennessee. Agents said the skinheads did not identify the school by name.

Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of ATF’s Nashville field office, said the two men planned to kill 88 African Americans, including 14 by beheading. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The men also sought to go on a national killing spree after the Tennessee murders, with Obama as its final target, Cavanaugh told The Associated Press.

“They said that would be their last, final act — that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama,” Cavanaugh said. “They didn’t believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying.”

No immediate comment
An Obama spokeswoman traveling with the senator in Pennsylvania had no immediate comment.

The men, Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark., 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 more.

The two men were arrested Oct. 22 by the Crockett County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office. “Once we arrested the defendants and suspected they had violated federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities,” said Crockett County Sheriff Troy Klyce.

Cowart and Schlesselman are charged with possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer, and threatening a candidate for president.

The investigation is continuing, and more charges are possible, Cavanaugh said.

The 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.

Ram vehicle into Obama?
For the Obama plot, the legal documents show, Cowart and Schlesselman “planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows.”

“Both individuals 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 this attempt.”

Cavanaugh said there’s no evidence — so far — that others were willing to assist Cowart and Schlesselman with the plot.

He said authorities took the threats very seriously.

“They seemed determined to do it,” Cavanaugh said. “Even if they were just to try it, it would be a trail of tears around the South.”

The court 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.

14, 88 are skinhead symbols
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.”

Helena-West Helena, on the Mississippi River in east Arkansas’ 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 Schlesselman.

However, the reported threat of attacking a school filled with black students worried Fielder. Helena-West Helena, with a population of 12,200, is 66 percent black. “Predominantly black school, take your pick,” he said.

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Obama Assassination Plot uncovered

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Hat Tip: By John Ensslin, Judy Villa, April Washington, Rocky Mountain News

— Federal authorities are downplaying a possible assassination plot against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

“We’re aware of the matter discussed tonight by the Aurora Police Department,” said Colorado U.S. Attorney Troy Eid in a statement late Monday night. “Federal law enforcement is working hand-in-glove with the Aurora Police Department. Because this matter is currently under investigation, there is little we can say right now.

“We can say this: We’re absolutely confident there is no credible threat to the candidate, the Democratic National Convention, or the people of Colorado.”

At least three people had been arrested in connection with a possible plot to kill Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High, according to CBS4 News. The suspects are being held on either drug or weapons charges.

Aurora police arrested a suspected drunken driver at 1:30 a.m. Sunday during a routine traffic stop. The man was seen “weaving,” sources said.

Aurora police seized from the suspect’s rental pickup a bullet-proof vest, two rifles, one of which was stolen and one with a hunting scope, ammunition, drugs and walkie-talkies.

Detective Marcus Dudley, a police spokesman, would not comment on reports that the men were involved in a plot to kill Obama. He told reporters gathered in a parking lot behind the police station that he could not discuss the “federal implications” of the case or whether others beside the three men had been arrested. However, he did confirm that federal authorities were involved in arresting two of the men.

“Clearly, we feel there are federal implications. Beyond that I can’t elaborate,” he said.

He said the U.S. Attorney for Colorado will hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier Monday, CBS4 had reported one of the suspects told authorities that they were “going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a … rifle … sighted at 750 yards.”

Law-enforcement sources told CBS4 that one of the suspects “was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative.”

A second source told CBS4 News that they are concerned they may have come upon a possible “assasination plot.”

Dudley identified the three suspects as:

* Tharin Robert Gartrell, 28, who was carrying a Colorado identification card that listed a Centennial address. Gartrell was erratically driving a rented 2008 blue Dodge Ram truck that was not registered in his name. The guns, ammo, drugs and other equipment were found in the truck.

* Nathan Johnson, 32. About three hours after Gartrell’s arrest, police from Aurora, Denver and Greenwood Village, and federal agents arrested Johnson at a hotel near Interstate 25 and Belleview Avenue. He is being held on drug charges in Denver. His bond amount was not available.

* Shawn Robert Adolf, 33. Police and federal agents arrested Adolf at the Cherry Creek Hotel at 600 South Colorado Boulevard in Glendale around 5 a.m. Sunday after he jumped from a sixth-floor window. Adolf was injured when he fell four stories onto the second-floor roof of the hotel kitchen. He then jumped again onto the ground around the hotel, where police caught him a short time later. Johnson was hospitalized with unspecified injuries from his fall. He is being held on 7 outstanding warrants with bonds totaling $1 million.

The Secret Service, ATF, FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office are investigating.