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FBI speaks exclusively to News 4 about hate crimes as 2 local men face riot charges in Idaho

Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 6:48 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Two local men are accused of being part of a white nationalist group that saw 31 members arrested at a pride event in Idaho over the weekend.

Asa lives a few houses away from the listed address for Mitchel Wagner in Florissant. She told News 4 she is uncomfortable knowing someone with those views lives so close.

“Shocking, very,” said Asa. “That I am this close to somebody who is part of a white supremacist group.”

Wagner has been awaiting trial on charges he defaced a Black history mural on the campus of Washington University in December. News 4 went to his home Monday, but no one answered the door.

He was arrested alongside Freeburg resident Garret Garland and accused of conspiracy to riot. All 31 people who were arrested are affiliated with the group Patriot Front, according to police. Researchers with the Southern Poverty Law Center say the group is a white nationalist hate group that broke off from another group following the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

It is unknown how Wagner and Garland ended up in Idaho, but local police say a tipster alerted them to what looked like “a small army” piling into the back of a U-Haul dressed in matching outfits and wearing riot gear. Police said they have been receiving death threats for the arrests.

Josh Morrill is an Assistant Special Agent in charge of the FBI St. Louis field office. He told News 4 that hate groups are here too, and authorities investigate concerns.

“The terminology we use in the FBI is left of the boom. We are trying to learn about and prevent these acts before they even happen,” he said.

Morrill said they must balance hate speech, which is totally legal, with true threats.

“It’s a very difficult challenge we have to deal with on daily basis,” he said.

Michael Kielty, Wagner’s attorney, said his client is not violent. He also said the group has the right to free speech.

“Oh, I don’t think they are a hate group,” said Kielty. “They don’t espouse violence, they just have a different idea of how they think the country should be and whether you or I disagree, they still have a right to say it.”

The prosecutor in Idaho said court dates had not been set. Kielty said he was unaware of his client’s whereabouts. News 4 has not been able to reach any representatives for Garland.

St. Louis police said they are unaware of any threats to upcoming Pride events in St. Louis. Anyone who sees something can call 911 for immediate safety concerns, or submit a tip to the FBI here.