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FBI: White supremacist arrested for plotting to bomb Colorado synagogue

Richard Holzer was arrested after admitting to federal investigators that he was planning to blow up the Pueblo synagogue with pipe bombs and dynamite.

DENVER — A 27-year-old white supremacist has been arrested in a plot to blow up the Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, according to federal court documents made public Monday.

Richard Holzer was arrested on Friday after he admitted to federal investigators – who were posing as co-conspirators – that he was planning to blow up the synagogue using pipe bombs and dynamite, an affidavit to support a criminal complaint in the case says.  

In a press conference Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn called the foiled plot an “imminent threat of domestic terrorism against a Colorado religious institution.”

Holzer has been charged by criminal complaint of the hate crime of attempting to obstruct religious exercise by force, using explosives and fire. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

Undercover agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) first contacted Holzer on Sept. 28 through one of his Facebook accounts, where he was known to "promote white supremacy ideology and acts of violence," the affidavit says.

An FBI agent posed as a white female supporter of the white supremacy ideology and told Holzer that Facebook suggested they be friends, the affidavit says. Shortly after that, Holzer sent pictures of himself wearing clothing with symbols and phrases associated with white supremacy, according to the affidavit. Holzer told the agent that he lives in Colorado, used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and is now a skinhead, according to the affidavit. 

Credit: El Paso County Sheriff's Office
Richard Holzer mug via El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Throughout the affidavit, Holzer referred to the planned attack on Temple Emanuel as “my mountain” and to the Jews and the synagogue as a “cancer to the community,” the affidavit says. He also said he wanted to "vandalize the place beyond repair," and ideally force the city to tear the building down, according to the affidavit. 

On Oct. 19, Holzer sent a video to an undercover investigator of himself walking around the exterior of Temple Emanuel and commenting on various features of the building, the affidavit says. Later that same day in a phone call, he told an FBI agent that he wanted to put the synagogue on the ground and demolish it, saying it would be "phase two," and that "phase 3 would be outside of Pueblo and bigger and better," according to the affidavit. 

On Nov. 1, Holzer met with undercover agents and received inert explosive devices that had been fabricated by the FBI, including two pipe bombs and 14 sticks of dynamite, Dunn said during the press conference. 

According to the affidavit, Holzer was planning to detonate the devices several hours later during the early morning hours of Nov. 2. Instead, he was arrested and taken into federal custody. 

Michael Atlas-Acuna, the President of the Congregation, told KOAA in Colorado Springs that he is thankful.

"You either look at the glass half full or half empty," he said. "I look at it half full because he got caught. So today's a good day. It's not a bad day. We're still Puebloans and we live in a great community. That's the message."

Holzer made his initial court appearance on Monday afternoon. He is currently being held at the Jefferson County jail. Another court hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 7 at 10:30 a.m.

According to the document, Holzer's "actions meet the definition of domestic terrorism."

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