A 20-year-old former Texas State University student who was arrested on federal child pornography charges is a member of a dangerous white supremacist group and was posting “disturbing” videos and photos on social media that led the FBI to believe he could be the next mass shooter or bomber.
Benjamin Bogard, of New Braunfels, Texas, was arrested February 1, 2019, on a charge of possession of child pornography, according to court records in the Western District of Texas. On February 21, federal prosecutors argued at a detention hearing that Bogard should remain in custody without bail because of his online postings, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
But his attorney argued that Bogard was just fantasizing and trying to gain likes and followers and had no intention of carrying out any dangerous acts. According to federal authorities, Bogard was a member of the Atomwaffen Division, a Neo-Nazi group linked to several violent crimes.
After the hearing, Bogard was ordered released on $75,000 bail and home detention, according to the Express-News. He remained jailed over the weekend as arrangements were made for the conditions of his release to be met, the newspaper reports.
An investigation into Bogard’s online activities began with a tip from someone concerned he could be plotting a “bombing” or domestic “terrorist attack,” according to court documents. During that investigation, FBI agents said they found a video depicting child pornography on Bogard’s phone. He was arrested on a charge related to that video, but is not currently facing any terrorism, weapons or threats charges.
Here’s what you need to know about Benjamin Bogard:
According to the complaint, another image depicting child pornography dated October 14, 2017, was found during an additional search. The photo showed four images of a prepubescent girl being sexually assaulted, according to court documents.
During a detention hearing on February 21, FBI agents testified about the tips that led to the investigation into Bogard, the San Antonio Express-News reports. An agent said Bogard talked online about wanting to kill minorities, embraced white supremacist beliefs and discussed obtaining a chemical substance to make a bomb, the newspaper reports. Agents said if they had not received the tip, he could have carried out the “mass violence.”
In early November, a tip was sent to Crime Stoppers in Albany, New York, by a person alerting authorities to Bogard’s Instragam account. The tipster provided screenshots from the now-deleted Instagram account to police that showed he belonged to the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, the FBI said. The photos showed Bogard making a Nazi salute and wearing a mask of a skull that covered half his face, a signature of the Atomwaffen group.
According to the Express-News, the FBI said another video on the Instagram account showed Bogard shooting a shotgun in a wooded area. On Twitter, Bogard responded to a discussion over firearm parts by writing his favorite part is “the part that kills 30 babies per trigger pull.”
Bogard searched online for “buildings to bomb” and for information about white supremacist Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, who killed nine black worshipers in 2015. He also had several photos of Roof on his phone and searched for how to build a gun, according to the FBI.
The FBI agents testified that Bogard’s Instagram account also featured chats with someone in which he talked about buying a gun and ammunition and “going ham on the state capitol” and another video of him racking his shotgun and talking about shooting minorities while making derogatory comments about them, the Express-News reports. His phone also had several videos of violence and gore, including hangings, beheadings and executions in the Middle East, the FBI said.
In other online postings, Bogard said he “no longer wanted to shoot up a school,” and expressed suicidal ideations. When questioned by the FBI, Bogard admitting to owning the social media accounts, but told agents, “this was all an online persona and he had no intent to do mass violence,” Spindel testified, the Express-News reports.
Benjamin Bogard’s father and attorney argued during the detention hearing that the 20-year-old college dropout wasn’t capable of actually committing violence and was just taking part in an online fantasy to get likes, followers and attention.
According to the FBI, Benjamin Bogard was a member of the Atomwaffen Division, a dangerous Neo-Nazi group that was founded in 2015, according to ProPublica. Several other members of the organization, which includes an online community and local chapters that meet in person, have been accused of violent crimes in recent years.