DOJ arrests 'White Lives Matter' member accused of attempting to burn down church

ByAlexander Mallin ABCNews logo
Friday, March 31, 2023

The Justice Department on Friday announced the arrest of an Ohio man who allegedly sought to burn down a local church planning to host two drag show events this weekend.

Prosecutors have charged 20-year-old Aimenn Penny with one count of malicious use of explosive materials and one count of possessing a destructive device.

They allege that on March 25 Penny used Molotov cocktails to attack the Community Church of Chesterland in Chesterland, Ohio, in an effort to burn the church to the ground.

The Cleveland Field Office of the FBI gathered information that Penny was part of a White Lives Matter group that espouses racist, pro-Nazi and homophobic views.

At a March 11 drag queen event in Wadsworth, prosecutors said, Penny joined members of the group who showed up carrying flags with swastikas and yelling homophobic slurs, prosecutors said. Penny attended the event wearing military-style gear and carrying a firearm.

The affidavit further details what it calls Penny's racist and homophobic activities. Last October, he was interviewed by police after handing out racist flyers and told them he believed African Americans were the "problem" and that there was a civil war coming between races.

Investigators secured a court order to search location data on Penny's phone that connected him to the scene of the church and Friday conducted a search of his residence where he admitted to building the Molotov cocktails and targeting the church with them.

"PENNY stated that he was trying to protect children and stop the drag show event," the affidavit said. "PENNY stated that night he became more and more angry after watching internet videos of news feeds and drag shows in France and decided to attack the church. PENNY stated that he would have felt better if the Molotov cocktails were more effective and burned the entire church to the ground."

A search of his home revealed a handwritten manifesto, a Nazi flag and other memorabilia, the affidavit said.

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