A Colorado white supremacist was charged with plotting to attack a historic synagogue in the city of Pueblo, allegedly telling undercover FBI agents that he wanted to use explosives to “get that place off the map.”
Richard Holzer, 27, faces up to 20 years in prison on a federal hate crimes charge of intentionally attempting to obstruct persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs, through force and the attempted use of explosives and fire.
According to the affidavit, Holzer used several Facebook accounts to promote white supremacism and racial violence, and to connect with other like-minded individuals. “I wish the Holocaust really did happen… they need to die,” he told another Facebook user on Sept. 3, also threatening to kill Latinos in a July post.
It was through Facebook that an undercover online operative for the FBI friended Holzer at the end of September; the complaint says he sent multiple pictures of himself wielding firearms, a video of himself holding a knife and saying “fuck antifa,” and video of himself “urinating on the front door of what appears to be a Jewish center.”
On Oct. 3, Holzer allegedly sent a message declaring he was “getting ready for RAHOWA,” or racial holy war, and said he was going to scope out Temple Emanuel, later sending a video of a woman outside of the building. The Pueblo synagogue was built in 1900 and the congregation consists of about 30 families.
Holzer met with three undercover FBI agents at a Colorado Springs restaurant in mid-October and, according to the affidavit, discussed his plans to poison the synagogue with arsenic and “vandalize the place beyond repair” to “make them know they’re not wanted here.” They then discussed using pipe bombs, with Holzer allegedly saying, “This is the big center for them here in town. Thing is, why not hit the heart, right?” He again did video surveillance on the building.
As time for the planned attack drew nearer, on Oct. 23 he sent photos of what appeared to be pipe bombs and declared himself “honored to be a part of history and, more important, the future of our folk. Heil.”
On the evening of Nov. 1, Holzer allegedly met undercover agents at a motel bearing a Nazi armband, knife and copy of “Mein Kampf.” They brought him inert sticks of dynamite and pipe bombs, which he said he would use in an attack that night. He was arrested before the attack could occur and, in speaking with the FBI, allegedly referred to Jews and the synagogue as a “cancer” on the community.
The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors white supremacist movement figures online, reported Holzer to the FBI in 2016 and continued monitoring his social media posts.
“Quite frankly, to now have to face the fact that if not for some swift action by law enforcement, we could have had another extremely awful situation right here in Colorado,” said Scott Levin, the ADL’s mountain state regional director, according to the Denver Post.
“Unfortunately, with the rise of anti-Semitism around the world and around the country, it’s not terribly surprising,” said Temple Emanuel Rabbi Roberta Becker. “These incidents occur anywhere.”
“We’re not going to be victims,” said Michael Atlas-Acuna, Temple Emanuel’s president. “We’re not going to allow them to stop us doing what we’re doing.”