Seale, Alabama – Eastern Alabama police announce that a hate crime bomb plot targeting gay and black classmates of a 17-year-old white supremacist has been foiled in Russell County.
Authorities arrested Derek Shrout, a self-proclaimed white power advocate, last Friday, responding swiftly to threats to bomb Russell County High School written in Shrout’s own personal journal. The journal, carelessly left behind in a classroom by Shrout, fell into the hands of a teacher, who rushed the document into the hands of police investigators. According to WTVM-TV, Shrout threatened in his journal to harm six students and one teacher, citing hatred of blacks and gays as his motive. Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told reporters, “The journal contained several plans that looked like potential terrorist attacks, and attacks of violence and danger on the school.” Five of the students Shrout specifically named were black. Shrout believed the sixth student he named was gay, also a class of persons the 17-year-old professed to hate.
Sheriff Taylor said that the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut were an inciting factor in Shrout’s intention to bomb the high school. The first entry showing the student’s intent to attack his school is on December 17, only three days after the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. Fox News reports that law enforcement officers discovered over 25 smokeless tobacco tins and two larger cans with holes drilled in them in Shrout’s rooms on Friday. The tins were filled with pellets, partially outfitted as homemade bombs and grenades. One of the tins was labeled “Fat Man,” and another “Little Boy,” apparently in emulation of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. The improvised bombs were only “a step or two away from being ready to explode,” the Sheriff observed, going on to say that the quick thinking of school officials averted a horrible outcome. “The system worked and thank God, it did,” he said. “We avoided a very bad situation.”
In his own defense, Shrout claims that the entries in his journal were fictions, and that he never intended to harm classmates or the teacher. He was held in custody on $75,000 bond on a felony charge of assault until a court appearance this Monday, when he made bail. The presiding judge released Shrout under the following conditions: he must remain at home; wear a GPS locator bracelet on his ankle; refrain from initiating contact with anyone connected to the school; and be monitored by a parent while on the Internet. A court date for the teen has been set for February 12.
Shrout, who moved to Alabama from Kansas with his military family, had become well-known in Russell County High for his anti-gay and racist views. Classmates noted that he and a circle of other white supremacist friends often espoused white power propaganda, and gave each other the Nazi salute. Senior Class President David Kelly is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he’d have his big old group of friends and they’d go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff.”
Authorities say that the teen was involved in neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, and had learned bomb making from the internet. Now his classmates are expressing anger and frustration at Shrout’s intended attack on their school. David White, who used to hang out with Shrout after JROTC meetings, exclaimed to reporters, “Why would you want to go to a school and blow it up? You know you’re going to hit somebody else; you’re not just going to, in particular, hit one person. You’re going to injure more than one.”
Chicago, IL – A predominantly gay and lesbian synagogue in Chicago was specifically targeted for a terrorist attack this past weekend. Though the plot was foiled by law enforcement, Chicago’s Jewish community is on alert. The terrorist plot, originating in Yemen and thought to be the work of Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, involved explosive-filled packages to be delivered to Or Chadesh, a congregation of around a hundred gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their families, that worships in space rented from Emmanuel Congregation, on the north side of Chicago. According to WLS Radio reports, a highly placed Jewish source informed Emmanuel’s Rabbi Michael Zedek that the LGBTQ synagogue his congregation housed one of two Jewish houses of worship to be targeted in the Chicago area. Zedek, in turn, communicated with the spiritual leader of the Or Chadesh congregation, Rabbi Larry Edwards, to let him know about the plot to attack the LGBTQ congregation. Rabbi Edwards told WLS that members of his flock took the news “rather calmly,” saying that their identity as an LGBTQ synagogue may have been an added reason for terrorists to choose their congregation for an attack. Rabbi Edwards said to The Advocate: “Immediately, you kind of think, ‘well, [representing the gay community], maybe that makes us an additional target…. It could be totally random, somebody went on the Internet and picked a couple of synagogues.” The FBI has affirmed that religious institutions in the Chicago area were specifically chosen by terrorists in the Yemen-based plot, but the FBI has refused to confirm that Or Chadesh (and another, predominantly heterosexual Jewish congregation) was singled out for the attack. Rabbi Edwards says he is puzzled that he and Or Chadesh had not been informed by federal officials. Edwards told a reporter for WLS: “How did you find me? If you could do it, the FBI could do it. … I haven’t heard anything (from the FBI).” Still, Rabbi Edwards and his congregation are “grateful that the system worked in this case and law enforcement tracked [the plot] down.” Press and police came to the Friday services at Emmanuel Congregation, as well as supporters from the community. Rabbi Zedek said that Emmanuel routinely provides a security service whenever anyone is in the building, and has done so for a long time. He did not plan for extra security measures to be implemented at this time. “We’ll operate as business as usual,” Rabbi Zedek said. “That is part of the usual business that has come to our world.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Zedek and other leaders at Congregation Emmanuel discovered that the syangogue website has been visited “dozens of times” by sources in Egypt. Zedek has informed the FBI, and leads are being followed. Prior to nesting with Emmanuel Congregation, LGBTQ-predominant Or Chadesh rented space from Second Unitarian Church in the Lakeview area. Pastor Adam Robersmith of the Unitarian congregation told reporters that he had heard of the possibility that Or Chadesh had been selected by the terrorist in the failed attack, but he also said that he had no reason to believe his congregation was in any peril.