Idaho police said they’ve received death threats since arresting 31 men affiliated with white nationalist group Patriot Front near an annual LGBTQ+ event over the weekend.
Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White spoke to reporters Monday, saying that his department has fielded about 149 calls in the aftermath of the arrests. He said about 50 percent of the calls have been praise from the community, who offer their names and express pride in the department.
“And the other 50 percent — who are completely anonymous, who want nothing more than to scream and yell at us and use some really choice words — offer death threats against myself and other members of the police department merely for doing our jobs,” White said. “Those people obviously remain anonymous.”
Officers have also received threats of doxxing, a practice in which someone publishes personal information such as phone numbers or addresses online, White said. The majority of the threats being made appear to be from outside the Coeur d’Alene community, according to the chief.
A 911 caller reported seeing a “little army” of people in masks and with shields in a U-Haul truck on Saturday. Responding officers stopped the vehicle about ten minutes later and 31 people in “similar attire” were arrested, White previously said.
The 911 caller will not be identified.
“Since myself and other members of my agency have been receiving threats, including death threats, I think it appropriate to withhold that person’s information,” White said.
The 911 call and body camera footage would be made available at some point, White said, but did not say when citing the ongoing investigation process.
Police had received prior threats from “opposing groups” leading up to the city’s annual Pride in the Park event, which highlights the civil rights struggles of LGBTQ+ communities. Additional staff were allocated to the Pride event, but there was no intelligence specific to the Patriot Front group, White said.
White praised the 911 caller for their diligence in reporting what they saw, saying it likely prevented a dangerous conflict.
“This one concerned citizen rather than pulling out their phone and recording this for their 15 minutes on YouTube — or Snapchatting it or something like that — took the time to call 911 to report some suspicious activity,” White said.
“And as a result, we likely stopped a riot from happening downtown.”
White confirmed he observed documents in which the group allegedly planned to create a confrontation, including the use of smoke grenades, before retreating down Sherman Avenue.
“It didn’t delineate which group exactly, whether it was police officers or the Pride people, that they were planning to confront,” White said. “It was more vague than that.”
One smoke grenade was found among the suspects’ belongings and they wore arm patches and logos on their hats that identified them as members of Patriot Front, White said over the weekend.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Patriot Front as a white nationalist “hate” group. The nonprofit says the group was founded with the help of other “neo-Nazis” in Texas immediately following 2017’s deadly Unite the Right rally, which left the event’s organizing group, Vanguard America, in shambles.
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office released the identities of all 31 who were arrested, all of them charged with one count each of criminal conspiracy and bonded out of custody. It’s unclear if they have all retained attorneys.
Of the entire group, only two were listed as residents of Idaho in the sheriff’s booking report.
The rest of the group included seven individuals from Texas, six from Utah, five from Washington, three from Colorado, two from South Dakota, one from Alabama, one from Wyoming, one from Oregon, one from Illinois, one from Arkansas, and one from Missouri.
It’s unclear when the suspects will appear in court.
Among those identified was a man with the same name as Patriot Front’s Dallas-based founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau. An email sent to an address listed for Rousseau requesting comment was not immediately returned Monday.
Dennis Romero and Michelle Acevedo contributed.