New details emerge about Patriot Front arrests
Authorities arrest members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front near an Idaho pride event Saturday, June 11, 2022, after they were found packed into the back of a U-Haul truck with riot gear. (Georji Brown via AP)
Staff Writer | June 15, 2022 1:09 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — Court documents have revealed new details about the arrest of 31 men who are associated with the white nationalist hate group Patriot Front, including who bailed them out of jail.
Records show that Joshua Plotner, of Craigmont, paid more than $2,200 to bail out at least seven men facing a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to riot.
Plotner did not return phone calls Tuesday from The Press.
It’s unclear how — or if — Plotner knows the men. The Daily Beast reported that one suspect told his mother that “anonymous donors” bailed him and the others out of jail.
Receipts show that Plotner paid $315, plus fees, for each of the following suspects:
- Dakota Ray Tabler of West Valley City, Utah
- Wesley Van Horn of Lexington, Ala.
- Mitchell Frederick Wagner of Florissant, Mo.
- Nathaniel Taylor Whitfield of Elk Ridge, Utah
- Robert Benjamin Whitted of Conroe, Texas
- Alexander Nicholai Sistenstein of Midvale, Utah
- Jared Michael Boyce of Soringville, Utah
According to court documents, 12 suspects paid their own bail. Four secured surety bonds, while four others had their bail paid by people who appeared to be relatives.
Bail information was not available for the remaining four men.
The suspects are accused of planning to incite a violent disturbance at the Pride celebration in City Park Saturday, then continue rioting along Sherman Avenue.
It took just two minutes for the men to load their gear into the back of a U-Haul truck and then squeeze into the U-Haul themselves.
That’s what an anonymous tipster relayed to police, after reportedly witnessing the “little army” in the parking lot of the SpringHill Suites in Coeur d’Alene.
Ten minutes later, just blocks from City Park, Coeur d’Alene police stopped the U-Haul and detained its occupants.
The men reportedly had with them metal shields and “abnormally long” metal flag poles.
Their hats, emblazoned with the Patriot Front logo, were reinforced with hard plastic inserts. They carried “tactical” medical kits, as well as radios and cameras.
Even before the witness tipped off police, area law enforcement was poised to respond to conflict on Saturday.
In the weeks leading up to the Pride event, threats of an armed protest organized by the Panhandle Patriots Riding Club attracted attention, both locally and online.
A poster for the event said, “If they want to have a war, let it begin here.”
Originally dubbed “Gun d’Alene,” the event was later rebranded as “North Idaho Day of Prayer.”
Before the rebranding, a video of a club member promising to “go head-to-head” with those celebrating Pride exploded on TikTok.
On other social media sites, users expressed intentions of going to Coeur d’Alene to support the Pride event — or to join the armed protest.
Chatter indicating potential conflicts prompted a large, visible police presence in downtown Coeur d’Alene on the day of the event.
Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said Monday that he’s confident the mass arrest prevented a riot.
Among the arrestees was Thomas Rousseau, 23, of Grapevine, Texas, who founded Patriot Front after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017. The group broke off from Vanguard America, a different neo-Nazi organization.
Rousseau reportedly told police he was in Coeur d’Alene to “peacefully exercise his First Amendment rights.”
He carried with him a document detailing “call locations, primary checkpoints, drill times, prep times and observation windows,” as well as GPS coordinates for a drop point and two backup plans, according to court documents.
The document outlined a plan to form a column outside City Park and proceed inward, “until barriers to approach are met.”
Once “an appropriate amount of confrontational dynamic had been established,” the column would disengage and head down Sherman Avenue.
As part of their investigation, police seized two vehicles in addition to the U-Haul: a white Ford Ranger and a red Toyota Camry, both with Washington plates.
Police observed multiple homemade shields left behind in the bed of the white Ford, as well as a blue jacket bearing the Patriot Front logo. A similar jacket could be seen inside the Toyota, police said.
Most of the men didn’t speak to police or answer questions immediately after their arrest.
But Wesley Van Horn of Lexington, Ala., allegedly told police he was involved with Patriot Front.
When an officer commented that Van Horn had “traveled a long way for his cause,” Van Horn reportedly replied, “We go where we’re needed.”
Spokane resident Mishael Buster also told police he was part of Patriot Front, according to court documents. His brother, Josiah Buster, was arrested alongside him.
The Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday that Mishael Buster has ties to former Washington legislator Matt Shea, who was found by a House-commissioned investigation to have planned and committed domestic terrorism.
Buster reportedly appears in a live stream of a service at Shea’s Spokane church, On Fire Ministries.
Shea spoke at the Gun d'Alene/North Idaho Day of Prayer event that occurred in protest of Pride, after participating in a “prayer walk” earlier in the day.
Those arrested come from 12 states, including Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Oregon, Illinois, Wyoming, Arkansas and Missouri.
Just two come from Idaho — Genesee and Idaho Falls, specifically — while at least two have ties to Spokane.
One of the men whose bail was paid by Plotner, Mitchell Wagner, was previously charged with defacing a mural of famous Black Americans on a college campus in St. Louis last year.
Next month, the suspects are required to appear in person before a Kootenai County judge for arraignment.
If defendants fail to appear in court for a misdemeanor citation, a judge may issue a bench warrant for their arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.