Arrested Coast Guard Officer Planned To Kill People On Massive Scale
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
A federal judge in Maryland has ordered a Coast Guard lieutenant held without bail on gun and drug charges. Prosecutors say Christopher Hasson is a white supremacist who kept a small arsenal in his basement apartment, had drawn up a list of Democratic leaders and cable news anchors that he planned to kill.
NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre was at the courthouse. He's in the studio now. And Greg, we know the judge has ordered Hasson held, but there is a caveat. What's going on?
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Right. So this is at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., just outside D.C. And the judge, Charles Day, agreed to hold the Coast Guard lieutenant, Christopher Hasson, without bond. And he noted that the prosecution is making these very serious accusations, even calling him a domestic terrorist. But the judge said the actual charges that have been filed, which are drug possession and weapons possession, don't necessarily lead to pretrial detention. And he told prosecutors they have 14 days to bring more serious charges against him, or he'd invite the defense to come back and seek his release.
CORNISH: So did prosecutors say they would bring more serious charges?
MYRE: No, they didn't. And they really - they pointed to this sort of detailed court filing that they've made that Hasson has 15 guns, more than a thousand rounds of ammunition and this list of more than 20 people, Democratic leaders and news anchors on cable television, who appear to be targets. Here's what the U.S. attorney Robert Hur said just after the hearing.
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ROBERT HUR: The sheer number and force of the weapons that were recovered from Mr. Hasson's residence in this case coupled with the disturbing nature of his writings appear to reflect a very significant threat.
CORNISH: To step back for a moment, how did authorities find Hasson?
MYRE: So we know the Coast Guard began investigating. We don't know exactly what prompted this. But the prosecutors say he was spending hours on his government computer right at Coast Guard headquarters here in Washington where he's worked for the past three years. And he was searching for information on figures like the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and a few other people like this.
So they set up a surveillance camera, and they saw him taking illegal opioids at his desk at work. And then they moved in, arrested him in the Coast Guard parking garage last Friday although it wasn't announced at the time. They went to his apartment in Silver Spring in suburban Washington, found these weapons and these opioids and steroids and notes on his computer where he talked about being a skinhead for 30 years while he was in the military and this desire to kill as many people as he could.
CORNISH: After all this, is the Coast Guard speaking publicly now?
MYRE: No, they really haven't said much other than to acknowledge he was working for them. I did speak to one of Hasson's co-workers, Adam Stolzberg, who spent about the past six months with him. And he said he was a pretty normal guy - nothing really strange. He just talked about work, had a lot of tattoos, drove a Harley to the office. But that describes a lot of guys in the Coast Guard. So he really - as they were talking about it the past few days, they knew he'd been arrested but had no idea that it would be the kind of accusations we've seen.
CORNISH: So as we learn more, I want to just talk about context for a second because there have been other recent cases of politically motivated violence. What more can you tell us what we've seen the last few years?
MYRE: So just last fall we had this case of Cesar Sayoc. He was the man down in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region who was accused of mailing pipe bombs. He was a big supporter of Trump. He mailed these pipe bombs to former Democratic leaders - Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton. Also he had this sticker criticizing CNN on his van. But then we also had a shooting a couple years ago of a couple Republicans as they were practicing baseball. So sadly this has become something that's a little more common.
CORNISH: That's NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Greg, thank you.
MYRE: Thank you.
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