An armed man who stopped an Amtrak train in Nebraska is facing a terrorism charge after the FBI discovered ties to "an 'alt-right' Neo-Nazi group," a cache of weapons and allegations that the suspect, Taylor Michael Wilson, had talked about a desire to kill black people.
Federal authorities have filed a terrorism charge against Wilson, 26, of St. Charles, Mo., who was arrested in October after Amtrak personnel said he entered a restricted area of a train and applied the emergency brake in Furnas County, Neb.
Wilson is accused of "terrorism attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and against mass transportation," according to court papers that were recently unsealed.
Investigators say Wilson had been traveling from California to his home in Missouri when he was found in a secure area of the train. After Amtrak staff found him "playing with the controls" in the engineer's seat, a struggled ensued, in which Wilson repeatedly tried to get loose and to reach at his waistband.
A local sheriff's deputy was called to the scene in rural Nebraska around 2 a.m. Oct. 22. The deputy found Amtrak personnel holding Wilson down on the ground. He was carrying a loaded .38-caliber handgun, along with a speedloader that was full of ammunition.
A backpack belonging to Wilson was found to contain "three additional loaded speed loaders, a box of .38 ammunition, a hammer, a fixed blade knife, tin snips, scissors, a tape measure" and a respirator-style mask, according to the federal filing. Also in the bag were business cards for the National Socialist Movement in Detroit and for the Covenant Nation Church in Oneonta, Ala.
After his arrest, Wilson was charged with two felonies under state statues; he was released on bond on Dec. 11 and was to live at his parents' house in St. Charles, Mo. The federal counts against him were added in late December, after the FBI investigation turned up troubling evidence that investigators said was consistent with people who are "attempting or planning to commit criminal acts or acts of terrorism or violence."
That evidence included documents from Wilson's phone, which included images of a white supremacist banner reading " 'Hands up don't shoot' is Anti-white fake news – Altright" along with a number of how-to books on killing people and carrying out violence. In addition to the pistol he was allegedly carrying when he was arrested, the FBI found more than a dozen other guns at his residence.
In court documents, FBI special agent Monte R. Czaplewski said there is probable cause to believe that Wilson's weapons and electronic devices were "used for or obtained in anticipation of engaging in or planning to engage in criminal offenses against the United States."
Wilson's roommate told the FBI that Wilson had begun acting strangely last summer, when Wilson "joined an 'alt-right' Neo-Nazi group" that he found after looking for white supremacy forums online.
Speaking to federal agents, the roommate said Wilson has said he is interested in "killing black people," the affidavit states, adding that the roommate believed that Wilson was serious. The witness also said that Wilson's earlier statements led him to believe that he and others in his white supremacist group were responsible for putting up "Whites Only" signs at businesses.
Wilson joined other members of that group in traveling to protests in Charlottesville, Va., the roommate said, referring to what investigators believe was the violent Unite the Right rally that took place in August 2017, at which a woman was killed.
He possessed at least 20 guns, including to a number of powerful rifles, from an AK-47 to AR-15s and an M-4.
The FBI says that after Wilson's parents told agents in Omaha, Neb., that they weren't sure where he lived — other than "an apartment somewhere" — the agency determined that he lived in a residence in St. Charles, Mo., that is owned by his parents.
A search of Wilson's residence turned up a hidden compartment behind a refrigerator, in a space that had been disguised to look like a permanent wall panel.
From the affidavit:
"Upon removing the panel agents discovered a large amount of evidence to include a tactical vest, 11 AR-15 (rifle) ammunition magazines with approximately 190 rounds of .223 ammunition, one drum-style ammunition magazine for a rifle, firearms tactical accessories (lights), 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition, approximately 840 rounds of 5.45x39 rifle ammunition, white supremacy documents and paperwork, several additional handgun and rifle magazines, gunpowder, ammunition reloading supplies, and a pressure plate. Also located in the compartment was a hand-made shield."
While at the residence, agents also spoke to Wilson's father, who — after consulting with his attorney — gave 15 of his son's guns to the FBI team, along with a tactical body armor carrier with ceramic ballistic plates.
At least two of those weapons were found to be in possible violation of federal laws. One, a Pioneer Arms Corporation Model PPS43-C, a lightweight rifle, was "fully automatic," the affidavit said. The other, a CZ Scorpion Evo 3, had been shortened.