The FBI arrested three suspected white supremacists on firearms charges on Tuesday, the Justice Department announced Thursday. Brian Lemley, Jr., and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, alleged to be members of “The Base,” a racist violent extremist group, were arrested along with a Canadian national, Patrik Jordan Mathews.
According to a federal official, the men were arrested near Baltimore and were believed to be heading toward Richmond, Virginia, where a pro-gun rally is planned for next week. Lemley has been charged with transporting a machine gun and other firearms charges, and he and Bilbrough are charged with transporting and harboring “an alien unlawfully present in the United States.” Mathews also faces firearms charges.
The FBI accuses Mathews of unlawfully crossing from Canada into the U.S. in August. Lemly and Bilbrough are accused of driving from Maryland to Michigan to pick him up and bring him back to Maryland later that month.
In December, according to the affidavit filed in the case, Lemley and Mathews used firearms parts to make a functioning assault rifle. They also allegedly tried to produce a hallucinogenic drug, DMT, at Lemley’s and Mathews’ apartment, and they discussed The Base.
This month, according to the affidavit, Lemley and Mathews bought 1,650 rounds of ammunition and shot the rifle they had made at a gun range in Maryland. They were carrying firearms when they were arrested, apparently while traveling to Richmond.
Mathews is a former Canadian Armed Forces member and was relieved of his duties in August, the Canadian Forces said. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports he was being investigated by officials there for a role in recruiting members for a neo-Nazi extremist group.
Mathews joined as a reserve member in 2010 and was a combat engineer at the Canadian Forces Base in Winnipeg. As a reservist, Mathews worked part-time for the military and did not have any deployments. He never had any access to military weapons or explosives, the Canadian Forces said.
The Canadian Forces said they had been made aware of “possible racist extremist activities” by one of their members in Manitoba prior to the media coverage. “The Canadian Forces National Counter Intelligence Unit (CFNCIU) had been investigating the matter for several months,” the Canadian Forces press office said. “We would not comment on what prompted or led to this investigation.”
Pro-gun groups are planning to hold a rally near the Virginia Capitol next week, on January 20. The groups oppose pending gun control legislation from the Virginia General Assembly introduced by Democrats, who now hold the majority in both chambers of the Virginia legislature.
On Wednesday, after seeing “threats of violence,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square ahead of the rally next week.
The men are expected to appear in District Court Thursday in Greenbelt, Maryland.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Reporting by Andres Triay and Clare Hymes. Caroline Linton contributed to this report.