Share story

A white supremacist group linked to multiple homicides has one of its largest chapters in Washington state, according to a report by the investigative-reporting nonprofit ProPublica.

The neo-Nazi group, known as Atomwaffen Division, is known for its recruiting of young white men, attracted to a violent ideology that idolizes Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups, says Atomwaffen is organized “as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse.”

Citing encrypted chat logs containing 250,000 messages, ProPublica on Friday reported the group’s members cheering the murder of a¬†gay and Jewish University of Pennsylvania student, allegedly by a man who was an Atomwaffen member. That’s one of five killings linked to the group’s members or close associates, according to the SPLC.

According to ProPublica, Atomwaffen has perhaps 80 members in 20 cells spread around the country – with the largest chapters chapters based in Virginia, Texas and Washington. The group’s website features propaganda posters promoting “white revolution” and urging white men to “join your local Nazis!”

The group has conducted armed training sessions, including one identified by ProPublica in Skagit County: “In the Pacific Northwest, cell members had converged on an abandoned cement factory, known as ‘Devil’s Tower’ near the small town of Concrete, Washington, where they had screamed ‘gas the kikes, race war now!’ while firing off round after round from any array of weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle with a high capacity drum magazine.”

Using the chat logs, ProPublica identified¬†Kaleb J. Cole, a 22-year-old man living near Blaine, Whatcom County, as the leader of Atomwaffen’s Washington state chapter. The report describes Cole as “a National Socialist Black Metal enthusiast who holds a concealed firearms permit and owns an AK-47.”

In 2015, when Cole lived in Bellingham, police received an anonymous tip that his apartment was decorated with “neo Nazi flags and memorabilia throughout his apartment,” according to a copy of the police report. He also was reported to police in Anacortes for allegedly harassing a Jewish grocery-store owner by waving a Nazi flag, according to ProPublica.

The Pacific Northwest has a long history of neo-Nazi and other racist and extremist groups operating here, including the Aryan Nations and Ku Klux Klan. The Seattle Times reported last summer on a resurgence of such groups, noting the SPLC has identified 21 hate groups in Washington state, mostly devoted to white supremacist or white nationalist causes.

According to SPLC, they include racist skinhead clubs, anti-Muslim groups and Wolves of Vinland, whose members worship the Norse god Odin and believe in the idea of Aryan superiority.

While Wolves of Vinland has been associated with white nationalism in media reports, Jack Donovan, the president of the Cascadia chapter of the group, rejected that label in an email Saturday, saying “I am NOT a White Nationalist and that the Wolves of Vinland is NOT a White Nationalist political organization.” He added: “We have no political aims and it is really misleading to shoehorn us into an article about wackos planning some kind of armed revolution.”