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FBI Thwarts Attempts To Blow Up A Synagogue In Colorado


The FBI says it thwarted an attempt to blow up a synagogue in Colorado. According to the agency, it arrested a white supremacist yesterday for domestic terrorism. Colorado Public Radio's Dan Boyce says the man had been posting racist and anti-Semitic content on social media.

DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: Twenty-seven-year-old Richard Holzer was planning to plant explosives this past weekend at the Temple Emanuel synagogue in the southern Colorado city of Pueblo, where he lives. Colorado U.S. attorney Jason Dunn.


JASON DUNN: After being contacted by undercover FBI agents posing as fellow white supremacists, Mr. Holzer indicated that he wanted to do something that would let Jewish people in the Pueblo community know that they are not welcome and that, according to him, they should leave, or they will die.

BOYCE: The undercover agents met Holzer and supplied him with fake explosives. He said he wanted to destroy the synagogue overnight and not during services but was not concerned if the explosion resulted in any deaths.

Scott Levin is the regional director of Jewish NGO the Anti-Defamation League in Denver. He says his organization has been analyzing and warning law enforcement about Holzer's Facebook posts.

SCOTT LEVIN: For a couple of years, he's had a presence on social media and on sites that are visited by white supremacists.

BOYCE: Levin says this marks the 13th time since the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year that a white supremacist has been arrested for plotting an attack against a Jewish community in the U.S. He argues it's up to everyone to watch for these incitements of violence online.

LEVIN: Hate speech is not illegal. So the fact that somebody is out there speaking against Jews, that is their right under the First Amendment to be able to do it. When they cross over into being violent, that's when action needs to take place.

BOYCE: Federal officials charged Holzer with a hate crime in his first court appearance yesterday. He has not yet entered a plea. If convicted, he could face 20 years in prison.

For NPR News, I'm Dan Boyce in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLEEPSTREAM'S "SUNLIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dan Boyce moved to the Inside Energy team at Rocky Mountain PBS in 2014, after five years of television and radio reporting in his home state of Montana. In his most recent role as Montana Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief, Dan produced daily stories on state politics and government.
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