Feds: Nevada teen militia leader planned "mass killings"

Steven Matthew Fernandes, who managed to amass "an arsenal of weapons," was arrested by FBI agents last month

By Bill Morlin

Published October 15, 2012 6:10PM (EDT)

A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theater lived in Aurora, Colo., July 20, 2012.    (AP/Ed Andrieski)
A SWAT team officer stands watch near an apartment house where the suspect in a shooting at a movie theater lived in Aurora, Colo., July 20, 2012. (AP/Ed Andrieski)

This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Authorities in Nevada may have just aborted another mass shooting with the arrest of an 18-year-old, self-professed militia leader who authorities say planned to “conduct mass killings” and “bragged about plans to shoot people on the Las Vegas strip.”

Steven Matthew Fernandes, who claimed to be a member of the Southern Nevada Militia, was arrested by FBI agents last month after three separate informants provided information about the teenager building and exploding bombs, amassing “an arsenal of weapons” and boasting of his killing prowess.

After a mass shooting spree at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured, Fernandes boasted, “I’ll beat that record,’’ federal court documents say.

At the recommendation of federal prosecutors, he was ordered detained as a flight risk and danger to the community at a hearing Wednesday before a U.S. magistrate judge, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.

Fernandes is charged in a federal indictment with possessing and making unregistered firearms (bombs) and transporting explosive materials. Additional charges may be forthcoming, based on admissions the suspect made after he was arrested Sept. 13 outside a Radio Shack store in Las Vegas where he worked.

A loaded 10-round shotgun and additional ammunition were found in his car at the time of his arrest, according to a public court document filed by federal prosecutors and obtained by Hatewatch.

In the suspect’s bedroom in a Las Vegas home where he lived with his divorced mother and two younger sisters, agents recovered five rifles, four handguns and “thousands of rounds of ammunition,” along with a dangerous array of bomb-building materials and instructions, the document says. His mother had installed a dead bolt on the room, the document says.

“Fernandes manufactured, transported and exploded several bombs, and possessed material to make more,” documenting at least one of those test explosions on his iPhone, which he turned over to FBI agents, the document says.

Based on information Fernandes provided, agents subsequently located a rural site in Arizona where the young bomb-builder detonated at least three improvised explosive devices on Sept. 11.

The suspect “had numerous firearms of different types and thousands of rounds of ammunition (and) bragged about plans to shoot people on the Las Vegas strip, shoot people at his school and shoot preschool children and infants,” the document says.

Some of the teen’s familiarity with firearms, the court document says, came while he was a member of Boy Scout law enforcement “Explorer Post.” Fernandes, who claimed he had made at least 69 pipe bombs and discussed building poisonous gas chlorine bombs, used a “special purchasing code” from the high school he attended to buy restricted chemicals from suppliers, the document says.

Prosecutors further allege that Fernandes “made graphic and violent comments,” some of which were recorded, “regarding sexually assaulting women, killing babies, killing mass amount of Jewish people like Hitler and being voted the ‘most likely to show up to school and just start killing people.’”

FBI agents learned about Fernandes’ activities last January, when an informant turned over an E-mail, the document says. In it, Fernandes “described himself as the commanding officer (CO) of the 327th Nevada Militia, a.k.a. 327th Recon Unit, and referred to himself as First Sergeant Fernandes.”

Fernandes claimed he was a “Scout Sniper” for the militia unit and that he trained for long- and close-range shooting.

In the E-mail, the document says, Fernandes said the “327th Nevada Militia (327th) is currently comprised of six or seven members, with four or five of these members physically attending training.” It doesn’t disclose if agents with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force have subsequently identified or interviewed any other those other purported members of the militia cell.

Fernandes said each member of the militia unit has individual assignments but are cross-trained as part of a group that “aspires to be an urban type city or populated area survivalist unit.”

Fernandes claimed that he and his fellow militia members “conduct explosive disposal training in order to be ‘ready to go to war’ with the government or ‘some invading asshole country’ which may use explosives, explaining this is ‘why we train to kill and destroy our enemies,’” the document says.

His militia unit of “killers” was preparing for a “total social collapse” and planned to learn the underground tunnel system in Las Vegas, because “the surface might not be safe.”

In February, the court document further discloses, a second informant provided the FBI additional information about Fernandes, who “claims that he can walk into a restaurant filled with people and ‘kill anybody without a round count.’”

One of the FBI’s three informants in the case said Fernandes boasted that “he could fuck up this town so badly” with his militia unit because its members are well-trained and have “tons of material,” including satellite pictures. Fernandes said it was his goal to have 1,000 members in the Southern Nevada Militia before joining the U.S. Marine Corps this fall – something that didn’t happen.

At one point, the document says, Fernandes discussed a scenario “if someone ever wanted to cause some damage in Las Vegas.”

“He explained that an individual could go to the Bellagio (hotel and casino) and rent a room. According to the defendant, the rooms in the Bellagio are sound proofed so one could sit in the rooms all day long and shoot people on the Strip without anyone knowing where the bullets were coming from.”

Bill Morlin

MORE FROM Bill Morlin

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Las Vegas Militias Nevada Radio Shack Southern Poverty Law Center Teenagers