Authorities disrupted an alleged lone wolf’s plan to shoot up the US Capitol

There have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2019.
There have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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A Virginia man inspired by the manifestos of various mass shooters reportedly threatened to carry out an attack at the US Capitol with a hunting rifle. The alleged plan, which is detailed in previously unreported court filings reviewed by Quartz, was interrupted by federal agents after a friend of the man brought a series of disturbing Facebook messages to authorities.

On Aug. 16, special agents with the US Capitol Police searched the Waynesboro, Virginia, home of 24-year-old William Eugene Angus Underwood. A couple of days earlier, a person identified in the search warrant application as “Cooperating Witness 1 (CW-1)” had contacted USCP’s Threat Assessment Section with concerns about what Underwood was saying online.

The witness told officers he recently had been chatting on Facebook Messenger over the course of two nights with Underwood, who was apparently having issues with his car and his girlfriend.

“And to top it off, the US is going down the shitter faster than I wanted it to, and I’m having legitimate serious thoughts about getting a plate carrier and rifle, and going off on my own kind of spree in the capital [sic] building,” Underwood wrote.

The documents do not provide details about Underwood’s political leanings.

On average, the US has had more than one mass shooting per day so far in 2019, with some 53 people shot dead in mass shootings in August alone. The most recent mass shooting, in which an Alabama teen killed all five members of his family, occurred Sept. 3. The rate of political violence is also on the rise, with 130% more prosecutions for threats against government officials in 2018 than a year earlier.

According to the filings, the witness asked Underwood “what good” it would do to take the kind of action he had described.

“It would make me feel better,” Underwood replied. “And frankly, that particular action is better than inaction. Go all founding father on their asses, clean slate this shit. I keep reading the manifestos of all these shooters, and I legitimately understand why they do what they do. I think their targets are fucked up, but their reasons check out with me.”

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“We have no power other than violence,” he continued, asking the witness—who suggested Underwood help organize a mass protest instead of committing murder—how they could “morally condone letting the government trample all over its own people?”

Underwood joked about his Facebook activity being monitored by the FBI, and speculated that he would “probably get my door kicked in soon…[f]or having treasonous thoughts and conversations.”

“The fact that we can’t even discuss such a thing as this without being a crime though, tells me all I need to know about my rights and freedoms,” he said. “Do you see where I’m coming from? The only options are to fight or run.”

The witness showed investigators a Facebook message containing a list of items Underwood said he had been searching for online: the price of a Glock handgun, Level V ballistic armor, driving directions to a DC suburb, and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

Days later, Capitol Police agents searched Underwood’s residence. They found, among other things, a receipt for a Bushmaster rifle and a 30-round magazine.

Underwood has not yet been charged with a crime, according to court records. The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.