SKINHEADS IN STIR
There's a weird rumor going around that the Phoenix Police Department canceled a press conference planned for September 23 because of my Feathered Bastard blog post the day before.
In that post ("Vinlanders Vanquished," September 22), I detailed how the PPD's Career Criminal Squad had decimated the Arizona chapter of Vinlanders Social Club, one of the most violent racist skinhead groups in the country.
The rumor is, of course, not true. Reliable sources have informed me off the record that another agency — probably the FBI — asked that the presser be put on hold, as it was claimed that the agency had an ongoing investigation related to the more than a dozen busts of Vinlanders whom the CCS already had secured.
Still, the kibosh was put on the media event the same day that my post was published.
Someone at the PPD — I'm not naming names — called me and implied that I'd somehow compromised an ongoing investigation. However, this cop was more concerned with how I got the story than with the story itself, which is deadly accurate.
Other news outlets already had reported that one of the suspects, Aaron Schmidt, was nabbed on September 1 in Tennessee for his alleged involvement in last year's drive-by shotgun slaying of Kelly Jaeger in Phoenix.
The 39-year old Caucasian woman was killed near Fourth Street and Puget Avenue while walking late at night with African-American friend Jeffery Wellmaker.
These reports, however, did not note that Schmidt's alleged accomplice in the shooting, Travis Ricci, already was in custody, having been collared earlier this year and charged with putting his girlfriend's head through a wall and stabbing two guys — one in the neck, the other in the hand — who came to her defense.
In the indictments for the Jaeger homicide, both men are identified as Vinlanders. They are currently held in 4th Avenue Jail, charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and attempted murder, among other crimes.
Their bonds? Three million dollars each. I should note that Ricci and Schmidt have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
All this is public record, on file with the Maricopa County Superior Court, as is information related to the takedown of other Vinlanders and Vinlander associates, for everything from aggravated assault and gun charges to drug possession and homicide.
Though other PPD detectives and other agencies were involved in the yearlong investigation of the Vinlanders, the CCS deserves most of the credit. Indeed, the names of CCS detectives are all over the court records related to the Vinlanders' arrests.
I also know that the local Anti-Defamation League, as it has in the past, provided crucial information that assisted in the CCS' making these arrests.
The dismantling of this vicious white-supremacist crew should be a cause of pride within the PPD. The members of the CCS deserve medals for vanquishing the Vinlanders on Arizona soil.
In fact, before the CCS began probing it, the murder of Jaeger had been written off as a drug deal gone bad. That's what PPD flacks were telling me weeks after the shooting.
This, despite ample evidence that a hate crime had occurred.
At the time, police spokesmen described how the pair had been accosted late one October night by a bald, tattooed, white man, who reportedly confronted the 48-year-old Wellmaker with the question, "What are you doing with that white woman?"
The white man later returned, according to Wellmaker, blasting the couple with a shotgun fired from the passenger seat of a car. Jaeger was killed. Wellmaker was wounded but survived.
Can you imagine if this blatantly racist killing had happened in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles? There would have been mass outrage, candlelight vigils, marches, and press conferences galore, with everyone from the mayor on down participating.
But Phoenix, to its shame, responded with sullen indifference. No wonder Arizona's the land of Senate Bill 1070, state Senator Russell Pearce, and neo-Nazi vigilante groups combing the desert for migrants.
The PPD should be trumpeting the Vinlanders Social Club's eradication in Arizona, particularly as hate crimes in Phoenix are up. Way up! Nearly 30 percent up from 2008 to 2009, according to stats provided by the PPD.
Now that the feline's out of the burlap sack because of my report, there's no reason for the PPD to hold back. All the indictments are unsealed. The alleged Vinlanders in custody and those who have been able to make bail already are making court appearances.
Another reputed Vinlander currently cooling his heels in county is David Fecke-Stoudt, who allegedly attempted to intimidate a witness in the case. The probable-cause statement for Fecke-Stoudt says he visited the home of the witness with a massive Hungarian Vinlander named Gabor Huszar, and that Huszar and Fecke-Stoudt warned of what might happen to informants.
"Approximately two weeks after the homicide," reads the statement, "the victim was visited at his residence by two known [Vinlanders Social Club] gang members David Fecke-Stoudt and Gabor Huszar . . . The victim was told to make sure no one was talking, or the Vinlanders would deal with them. The victim believed this meant death to him or anyone who spoke of this."
Stoudt has been charged with two felony counts of hindering prosecution and one felony count of assisting a criminal street gang. He's also in 4th Avenue, on a $150,000 cash bond.
Huszar, once a bouncer at a local strip club, is now in the Pima County Jail on a $150,000 bond. The Hungarian citizen is charged in Pima County on another matter, but he's also been indicted in Maricopa County with a felony count of assisting a criminal street gang.
One other alleged Vinlander snagged is Charles "Whitey" Mullen, an ex-con who's naturally prohibited from possessing firearms. He was arrested with three pistols in his residence and a stash of marijuana in his freezer.
Mullen reportedly has a picture of Nazi Rudolf Hess tattooed on the side of his torso, and one of Adolf Hitler on his head. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Hitler wanted Hess executed if he ever came into German hands after his flight to England in 1941.
Anyone familiar with the Vinlanders' reputation will not be surprised by the violence associated with them. In 2008, the organization's co-founder, Eric "The Butcher" Fairburn, pleaded guilty to felony battery in the beating of a homeless black man in Indianapolis as a crowd of witnesses looked on.
You can read more about Fairburn and the Vinlanders in a piece on the Southern Poverty Law Center's Web site, penned in part by ex-New Times scribe David Holthouse.
Interestingly, Fairburn, 36, recently turned himself in to police in Springfield, Missouri, and confessed to the six-year-old murder of William McDaniel. A former guitarist for the skinhead band RAHOWA (neo-Nazi shorthand for "Racial Holy War"), Fairburn once had a tattoo of the word "MURDER" across the front of his neck. He's since changed it to a laurel-leaf tattoo.
Likely, Fairburn didn't find Jesus, but rather knew something big was happening with the arrests of Aaron Schmidt and others. Perhaps he's trying to curry favor with authorities. Missouri news station KY3 News reported that cops there believe the murder of McDaniel was in retaliation for McDaniel running over a friend of Fairburn's, who later died of his injuries.
VSC violence is not confined to minorities or non-white supremacists. In 2006, at a "Nordic Fest" held in Kentucky, enraged, drunken Vinlanders attacked a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement who had delivered an insult in his speech to the crowd; he'd said that the NSM is more than a social club that likes to drink a lot.
As soon as the NSM-er left the stage, the Vinlanders jumped him, mercilessly kicking and punching him in front of his spouse and their 10-year-old child.
Though the group is strongest in Midwestern states such as Indiana and Ohio, the Vinlanders also operate in several other states, including this one. They assert an ideology of "modern tribalism" and adhere to a set of neo-pagan beliefs known as Asatru and Odinism.
Despite some claims to the contrary, they are openly racist.
According to the SPLC, Vindlanders Social Club co-founder Brien James once stomped a man nearly to death for not doing the Hitler salute at a party. The SPLC quotes him as saying, "I have been tried for attempted murder and multiple batteries and hate crimes . . . My JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] file is a mile long."
Cretins following James' lead will no longer be wilding in Arizona under the Vinlanders' banner because of the work of CCS detectives.
The CCS, dedicated to fighting street-level organized crime and murder-for-hire cases, has been directly responsible for securing convictions against racist lowlifes like Chad Kerns, convicted for his part in two brutal skinhead attacks in 2007. One involved the stabbing of a black man outside a Walgreens. The other, a beating of a Hispanic man at the Phoenix bar Rogue West.
Kerns is doing 10 years in a state pen.
The CCS also pursues crimes involving non-white supremacists, like the murder-for-hire case involving Cigar Warehouse owner Dimitri Rozenman, convicted this year of conspiracy to commit murder. He'd contracted to have his wife and members of her family offed. The CCS stepped in, and scored Rozenman's arrest before anything untoward occurred.
Despite these detectives' tirelessness, dedication, and effectiveness, the CCS was on the budget chopping block back in April, mostly because of internal PPD politics. Fortunately, Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos prevented the disbanding of the unit at the last minute.
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You see, budget cuts offer excellent cover to get rid of a squad that inspires petty jealousies in PPD higher-ups, honchos who want all the glory flowing in their direction.
Were the CCS ever to be done away with, it would be a tragedy of immense proportions.
With a down economy and white-supremacist activity on the rise, we need the CCS now more than ever. Arizona is a cauldron of ethnic and racial animus that racist skinheads are drawn to. Minus the CCS, the terror and the crimes these thugs commit would go largely unchecked, unsolved.
Let's hope that the PPD doesn't do something stupid and disband this anti-racist A-Team. This city needs a pushback to the rise in hate crime, and the CCS provides that in a way no other force can.