A teenager from Pickford, Michigan, was arrested on Friday by the FBI after expressing explicit neo-Nazi and antisemitic beliefs online, including allegedly planning a deadly assault at a local synagogue, according to local news sites.
Seann Pietila, 19, now faces charges of transmitting a communication containing a threat to injure another individual, according to the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan.
The criminal complaint states that Pietila engaged in conversations on Instagram where he expressed strong hatred towards the Jewish population, voiced support for neo-Nazis and idolized previous mass shooters.
"Antisemitic threats and violence against out Jewish communities - or any other group for that matter - will not be tolerated in the Western District of Michigan,"US Attorney Mark Totten
Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at his residence and discovered a cache of weapons, including firearms, a Nazi flag, a ghillie suit, gas masks and military sniper/survival manuals.
During the search, authorities also found a message on Pietila’s phone in the Notes app that identified a synagogue in East Lansing along with a date and a list of equipment. The FBI took immediate action upon receiving a report about threatening online communications, leading them to link the messages to Pietila.
“Antisemitic threats and violence against our Jewish communities – or any other group for that matter – will not be tolerated in the Western District of Michigan,” US Attorney Mark Totten said. “Today and every day we take all credible threats seriously.”
Suspect admired previous mass shootings
The criminal complaint further reveals that the suspect admired the 2019 Christchurch mass shooting in New Zealand. The date mentioned in the notes on his phone corresponded to the fifth anniversary of that event.
The FBI’s investigation into Pietila’s social media accounts uncovered additional troubling content, including images and posts featuring Nazi symbolism and references to other mass shooters.
Among the items seized from Pietila’s residence were ammo magazines, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol, various knives and firearms accessories.
James Tarasca, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan, stated that “no American should face threats against them based on their race or religion. Crimes like the one alleged in this complaint have a profound effect not only on the intended target but the entire community.
“I would like to thank the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office for their close collaboration during this investigation. Every Michigander should rest assured that law enforcement at all levels are working together to ensure that those who engage in this type of behavior see justice under the law.”