Two members of the Boogaloo Bois, including one from Minnesota, have been indicted on federal charges of attempting to provide material support to Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday.
The Boogaloo Bois is a loose-knit group of anti-government extremists. The heavily armed members often mobilize on social media and have garnered more prominence and law enforcement scrutiny this year. The term "Boogaloo" refers to a second civil war in the United States and is associated with violent anti-government uprisings, according to the complaint.
Michael Robert Solomon, 30, of New Brighton, and Benjamin Ryan Teeter, 22, of Hampstead, N.C., allegedly sought to capitalize on the unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Solomon was seen openly carrying a firearm in a residential neighborhood during that time, according to a witness.
A Star Tribune investigation in July found references to the Boogaloo Bois in dozens of leaked state and federal documents from the rioting in late May and early June. Solomon was singled out by name in one of the bulletins, which cautioned that he and others were ready to shoot police if they approached a home in Minneapolis where they were staged.
"We know we have a target [on us], that's why we don't meet up in big groups, because we know we're probably going to get raided," Solomon said in July. "We know a lot of us are probably going to die."
Posts to a Twitter account that appear to be Teeter's showed him in downtown Minneapolis during last week's during the unrest following untrue rumors that a man wanted in a fatal shooting who shot himself had actually been shot by police. Teeter posted photos of law enforcement vehicles and encouraged nearby Boojahideen, a subgroup of the Boogaloo Bois, to "respond."
"We need to get the word out and make sure that every Boojahideen in the area knows what's going on so that they can respond appropriately to the situation," he said in the video.
Solomon and Teeter were arrested Thursday evening. They made their initial appearances Friday before Magistrate Judge Tony Leung in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
The FBI began an investigation into Solomon, Teeter and the Boojahideen at the end of May, according to the affidavit. The two men are accused of attempting to provide weapons suppressors or silencers to Hamas in exchange for funding for their extremist organization.
"This case can only be understood as a disturbing example of the adage, 'The enemy of your enemy is your friend,' " said Assistant Attorney General John Demers. "As alleged in the complaint, these defendants sought to use violence against the police, other government officials and government property as part of their desire to overthrow the government."
On May 26, Solomon posted on Facebook that he was looking for a head count of members. Teeter followed with a post that read, "Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off." That day, Teeter traveled from North Carolina to Minnesota.
A witness who encountered Solomon that day in Minneapolis told the FBI that his mission was to get police out of the city. The witness said Solomon offered his protection from police, white supremacists and looters during the civil unrest.
Later, the witness invited Solomon, Teeter, and an unnamed associate to stay overnight at their home. There, the three discussed attacking police and other targets. The witness became uncomfortable with the conversation, the men's firearms and large amounts of ammunition, authorities say.
Solomon and Teeter discussed attacking and stealing weapons and bombs from a National Guard armory to supply the Boojahideen. They also discussed seeking out and killing white supremacists.
In June, the FBI began receiving information about Teeter, Solomon and other Boogaloo Bois from a confidential source that the Bois believed to be a member of the terrorist organization Hamas. The source, a paid informant, had a Middle Eastern accent.
Soloman and Teeter told the source that Hamas shares their anti-U. S. views. They spoke of their desire to become "mercenaries" for Hamas to make money to recruit more members and to purchase land for a training compound for the Boogaloo movement.
The source and Solomon communicated using Facebook Messenger until Solomon pushed for a switch to an encrypted messaging app.
The source met with the two men and another unnamed associate at a Twin Cities residence on June 6, where they discussed their dislike of police officers and the possibility of shooting them, as they loaded ammunition into magazines. "Most likely, [expletive] we're doing, we don't want our fingerprints on our [expletive]," Solomon said.
In mid-July, Solomon, Teeter and the source began discussing the destruction of government monuments to make a "big statement."
"Teeter revealed that he and Solomon had decided to target a historical county courthouse," because it was "a symbol of the unjust laws that America upholds" and had "low security," according to the complaint.
Teeter implied that he knew the basics of blowing up a courthouse, and that he had been researching their plan on the "dark web." Teeter identified a historic courthouse in northern Minnesota.
Solomon asked the source for Hamas to invest in their future, because he and Teeter would be assets to the organization. "To you and your friends, we've got to be pretty valuable, because two American-born white boys, right? We can move around like nothing. I can take anything anywhere," he said.
When discussing future targets for the Boogaloo Bois, Solomon expressed a desire to harm politicians and media executives. "[A]s soon as we, you know, mark the politicians that we want to. I'd be fine with going after the media after that. I'm not necessarily talking about the journalists on the street. Yeah, they lie. ... I just want to take out the top 20% people at each company."
During a hotel meeting on June 28 with Solomon, Teeter, the informant and an undercover FBI agent whom the Bois believed to be a more senior member of Hamas, the two expressed their willingness to manufacture suppressors for Hamas. Teeter offered to manufacture unmarked gun parts and unregistered and untraceable weapons. In return, they asked Hamas to fund their organization.
"If we are able to accomplish our goals, the U.S. would be [expletive] done," Solomon said.
On July 30, they delivered five suppressors to the undercover agent that they believed would be delivered to a militant wing of Hamas, negotiating a price of $1,800. The two offered to make fully automatic weapons and more suppressors for Hamas.
On Aug. 12, they told the source that they were delaying their plan to blow up a courthouse so they could execute a larger plot that could involve the murder of politicians.
Solomon and Teeter continued working to manufacture and sell more suppressors to Hamas through August.
Minneapolis criminal justice attorney Joe Tamburino said that the complaint presents a strong case against the two men.
"They've got the discussions, they've got the act of furtherance of the conspiracy. When these guys get into court, I'm sure they're going to be held without bail," he said.
Their sentencing could easily be 12 to 14 years, said Tamburino.
"The FBI is committed to stopping acts of violence against law enforcement officers or anyone else in our communities. The defendants in this case were willing to work with Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization, in order to get money for potential acts of violence here in the U.S.," said Jill Sanborn, assistant director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division.
The two will remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing set for Wednesday.
Staff writer Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report.
Zoë Jackson covers young and new voters at the Star Tribune through the Report For America program, supported by the Minneapolis Foundation. She is at 612-673-7112 and @zoemjack