Colorado man accused of planning to blow up synagogue

He is charged with attempting to obstruct a religious exercise by force using explosives and fire.

November 5, 2019 15:30
2 minute read.
Colorado man accused of planning to blow up synagogue

Supporters of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist political group, give Nazi salutes while taking part in a swastika burning at an undisclosed location in Georgia, US on April 21, 2018. (photo credit: GO NAKAMURA/REUTERS)

A Colorado man has been accused of domestic terrorism for planning an attack on a Pueblo synagogue and spreading white supremacists views that encouraged violence, according to court documents.

Richard Holzer, 27, met with an undercover FBI agent on Friday at a motel with the explosives he allegedly was going to use on Temple Emanuel, a 30-family non-denominational synagogue in Pueblo, according to an affidavit filed in the Colorado US District Court. The affidavit also said he threatened to poison the synagogues water in hopes of killing Jews.

The agent asked what would happen if someone was in the building when the bomb went off but Holzer said he assumed no one would be there, “but that if they were, Holzer would not care because they would be Jews,” read the affidavit.

Holzer began communicating with the undercover FBI agent on September 28 through a Facebook account. The affidavit said that Holzer said he was first a member of the Ku Klux Klan and is now a skinhead.

Arrest documents say he told the agent that he had paid “Mexican Hitler” to “hex and poison a local synagogue” and that he put arsenic in the water pipes of the congregation on October 31.

By the end of the month, Holzer had said he was preparing for a racial holy war and was planning to check the synagogue. He even sent the FBI agent videos from Temple Emanuel and said he was planning to poison the water supply again.

He is charged with attempting to obstruct a religious exercise by force using explosives and fire, according to The Denver Post.

Michael Atlas-Acuna, Temple Emanuel’s president, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Monday that he first learned of Holzer’s plot from press reports. He said the congregation is already conscious of its security but will review its procedures and policies given the news.

“We’re not going to be intimidated,” Michael Atlas-Acuna said. “We take security very seriously and we do what we have to do to secure the synagogue. We’re not going to be victims or see ourselves as victims. We’re going to defend ourselves.”

At a news conference Monday, law enforcement officials said the synagogue no longer faces an imminent threat. Officials from the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI classified the alleged crime as domestic terrorism.

“Pueblo is a diverse community, a community characterized by inclusiveness and not these types of behaviors,” Troy Davenport, Pueblo’s chief of police, said at the news conference. “This kind of behavior is frankly intolerable in our city.”

Ben Sales/JTA contributed to this report.

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