Boogaloo: The movement behind recent violent attacks
Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo and Richard Justus allegedly pulled up in a white van alongside a guard shack at the federal courthouse in Oakland, California, late last month and shot and killed a Federal Protective Service Contract Officer Patrick Underwood, critically injuring his partner. They allegedly fled the scene, which was near where protests were taking place in the wake of George Floyd’s death, setting off an eight-day manhunt.
“We believe Carrillo and Justice chose this date because the planned protest in Oakland provided an opportunity for them to target multiple law enforcement personnel and avoid apprehension to the large crowds attending the demonstrations, as described in detail in the complaint,” John Bennett, FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco field office said at a press conference after an arrest was made.
Carrillo, according to federal prosecutors, was linked to a little known but emerging movement called “boogaloo.” They also go by “boogaloo bois” or “boogaloo boys.”
Justus turned himself in and was charged with attempted murder. Carrillo was arrested after a witness eventually reported seeing the van and “observed what appeared to be ammunition, firearms and bomb making equipment” inside, prosecutors allege. Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office deputies showed up to Carrillo’s doorstep, and as they approached his home, he opened fire, killing Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.
The government alleges that Carrillo fled on foot, and then began carjacking innocent people using what is known as a ghost gun — a firearm which is privately made and untraceable. Court documents say that when authorities searched his van they found a bulletproof vest with a patch on it that tied Carrillo to boogaloo.
The patch showed an igloo and Hawaiian-style print that are symbols of the movement. Authorities also say Carrillo scrawled “boog” in blood on the hood of one of the vehicles he stole.
Carrillo was charged with federal murder of the FPS officer and was charged with murder on the state level for allegedly murdering the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sargent.
Near Las Vegas, three men with military experience who authorities say were connected to boogaloo, were arrested for allegedly trying to firebomb a Black Lives Matter protest last month.
Andrew Lynam, Stephen Parshall and William Loomis met by chance while attending ReOpen Nevada rallies in April and May, protesting against measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to court documents.
Brandishing automatic weapons, Lynam said at the rally his group “was not joking around” and “that it was for people who wanted to violently overthrow the United States government,” court documents say.
Lynam and Parshall were initially planning to create a disruption at a May 19 ReOpen Nevada rally using fireworks and smoke bombs that would cause “some type of confrontation between the police and the protesters,” according to a federal criminal complaint. The FBI says the men were using tactics from the Irish Republican Army Green Book.
The IRA Army Green book is a training manual that includes military tactics to wage war with the British government.
Having failed to cause a disruption at that rally, Parshall and Loomis discussed “causing an incident to incite chaos and possibly a riot,” in relation to the death of George Floyd by firebombing a power substation, according to court papers.
The three were eventually arrested after they started making Molotov cocktails to throw into the crowd. Lawyers for the three men have not responded to ABC News request for comment.
Court documents define boogaloo as a “term used by extremists to signify a coming civil war and/or fall of civilization.” The movement, according to Howard Graves, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project, started picking up steam in 2018.
“The name came from this movie Breaking 2: Electric Boogaloo. It became almost like one of these inside joke sort of cultural references for these like-minded individuals,” Javed Ali, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan and former senior counterterrorism official told ABC News.
The movement, according to Ali, spawned in chatrooms and the dark net before manifesting in the real world.
“The origins are also kind of murky. The movement has grown over the last decade mostly online through alternative content platforms. It initially took hold in sort of these dark corners of the Internet, 8chan, 4chan, Reddit and others,” he said.
According to Reuters, The Tech Transparency project, a nonprofit that seeks to hold big tech organizations accountable, found that tens of thousands of people joined Facebook groups related to boogaloo over 30 days in March and April.
John Cohen, a former undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told ABC News that it is not a laughing matter anymore.
“While the use of the term boogaloo started as a joke — the call for a second civil has become a social media fueled rallying cry for an eclectic group of far right extremists, some of whom have committed acts of violence in an effort to bring down our current system of government and establish a racially pure United States,” Cohen, an ABC News contributor said.
Facebook has taken down many boogaloo pages, according to Graves.
“We designated these attacks as violating events and removed the accounts for the two perpetrators along with several groups. We will remove content that supports these attacks and continue to work with law enforcement in their investigation,” a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in relation to Carrillo and Justus case.
But the movement is difficult to understand, and Ali said the challenge is that boogaloo represents a “mishmash” of different beliefs.
“I don’t think there’s a central core belief either in the movement. There’s a range of different grievances or different potential individuals who they believe are legitimate targets,” he explained.
“There are some in the boogaloo movement that their animus is toward minorities or people and others that are protected classes. There are some in the boogaloo movement that their main animus is toward law enforcement or government. And then there are probably people who are a combination of both of those,” Ali explained.
Graves said that while there is a white nationalist slant, boogaloo is really an anti-government movement and that advocates of the philosophy are being “opportunistic” when they invoke George Floyd or Breonna Taylor’s names in their outrage.
Graves estimates that there are followers in the thousands, but adds that it is “impossible to tell” because of the lack of structure.
Adherents are known for wearing Hawaiian shirts, Graves said.
“A lot of emphasis is put on the Hawaiian shirts because they know it comes off as ridiculous but that’s kind of part of the intent,” he said.
“If a boogaloo boy were in front of you, but not dressed out, a lot of the conversation with them is going to be particularly directed toward Second Amendment. They sincerely believe that any firearms legislation whatsoever is an absolute utter violation of the Second Amendment, the Constitution,” Graves said. “And they also believe that anybody who sort of breaks that oath is marking themselves for death. They think a citizenry would be justified in killing that person because they are, quote unquote, a tyrant.”
Graves said that a message Carillo wrote on another one of the cars he stole was, “I became unreasonable,” a reference to Marvin Heemeyer, a man who got into a dispute with a local zoning board in 2004 and did damage to one South Dakota town.
“In kind of an act of desperation, he up armored a bulldozer that he had with concrete and steel armor and basically went on a rampage around the town,” Graves explained of Heemeyer, adding, “it ended in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of property destruction and his suicide.”
According to local reports, Heemeyer left tapes after his death that said that God put him on earth to carry out his attack. The meme of Heymeyers word’s have become popular in boogaloo circles.
After law enforcement caught Carrillo, he screamed “this is what I came here to fight. I’m sick of these [expletive] cops,” as he was being led away in handcuffs.
Lawyers for Carrillo and Justus did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
According to a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police report obtained by ABC News, when police raided Loomis’ home, they found “kill boxes, survival tactics, fireworks as a distraction, a tannerite tree bomb and other various booby traps.” More evidence, authorities say, of the seriousness with which the three men were planning on taking action.
“Now, luckily, in the Las Vegas case, those guys were sloppy in their tradecraft and they managed to get disrupted,” Ali said. “But there could be dozens of other people who have that same sort of profile who aren’t as sloppy and could be silently advancing toward some plotting and we may not, unfortunately, know about until it’s too late.”