The man suspected of killing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein in Orange County earlier this month is alleged to have had connections to a neo-Nazi organization connected to other slayings.
According to ProPublica, three people who know the suspect, 20-year-old Samuel Woodward of Newport Beach, have said that he used to be involved with Atomwaffen Division (AWD), a neo-Nazi group that started in 2016 and celebrates Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. AWD members are required to read the writings of James Mason, the former American Nazi Party member who founded the Universal Order movement based on Manson’s fanatical ideas, The Times of Israel reported.
Woodward was scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 2 and, as of the Journal’s press deadline, prosecutors reportedly were still deciding whether to charge him with a hate crime.
AWD’s propaganda campaign includes disseminating posters that openly call for violence against minorities and promoting its reasons for a race war. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of AWD’s posters shows a man being hanged under a sign that reads, “FOLLOW YOUR FELLOW FAGGOTS”; another depicts the American flag with a Star of David burning under a swastika and reads, “A NEW ORDER WILL RISE FROM THE ASHES OF THE KIKE SYSTEM.” The ADL counted eight instances of AWD members posting flyers on college campuses. One such flyer read, “Where will you be when the race war begins? When the world burns?”
AWD has posted propaganda videos that feature members dressed in camouflage with skull-like bandanas tied across the bottom of their faces, shouting, “Gas the kikes! Race war now!” while they fire guns.
The self-described “armed fascist organization” holds what it calls a “hate camp,” where it inculcates its members with military-type training and exercises. Its name, “Atomwaffen,” translates to “nuclear weapons” and its endgame is to overthrow “the U.S. government through the use of terrorism and guerrilla warfare,” according to ProPublica.
AWD has been connected to numerous murders and terror plots. The ProPublica report points to one of AWD’s founding members, Devon Arthurs, murdering two of his roommates who were “Atomwaffen loyalists” after Arthurs converted to radical Islam. The report also notes that another of Arthurs’ roommates had collected explosives to use on a Miami nuclear power plant and highlights an instance in Virginia where an AWD supporter allegedly murdered his girlfriend’s parents before killing himself.
The neo-Nazi organization’s website states that recruits are being taken on an invitation-only basis, and no recruits are being sought at this time.
ProPublica reporter Jake Hanrahan tweeted some evidence that Woodward was connected to AWD, including Woodward’s description of himself as an “NS” (National Socialist), and the fact that one of Woodward’s accounts on the Kik messaging app featured AWD’s nuclear sign. Hanrahan also tweeted a list of books that Woodward purportedly said “shaped my political philosophy.” The list included books such as Markus Willinger’s “Generation Identity,” the ideological basis for the Identitarian movement that alt-right figures such as Richard Spencer subscribe to; and Savitri Devi’s “The Lightning and the Sun,” which argues that Hitler’s genocidal and tyrannical actions were necessary to bring forth a new “golden age.” Devi herself was “one of Hitler’s most devoted admirers,” according to Amazon.com’s description of the book.
On his book list, Woodward drew an arrow pointing at Devi’s book and wrote, “Literally the most insane —-ing book in the history of politics or literature lmao.”
Hanrahan also tweeted photos he alleged were of Woodward participating in AWD’s training exercises.
Hanrahan added in his tweets that Woodward eventually exited the AWD because he viewed its members as “posers,” although Hanrahan could not confirm that statement. Hanrahan said Woodward then joined another neo-Nazi organization through the fascist website IronMarch.org, which is no longer operating.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported there is a photo of Woodward pretending to smash someone’s skull with his foot, a reenactment of the 1998 film “American History X” that focuses on a neo-Nazi.
“Whilst it’s not proof of motive in the killing of Blaze Bernstein, I dare say it’s worth looking at considering Blaze was a gay Jewish man,” Hanrahan tweeted.
Bernstein and Woodward met at the Orange County School of Arts. The two reportedly went to Borrego Park on Jan. 2, the night Bernstein went missing. His body was found a week later with more than 20 stab wounds. According to the Orange County Register, “Woodward told investigators” — with a clenched jaw and fists — “that Bernstein kissed him on the lips, and that he pushed Bernstein away.”
CBS Los Angeles reported that Woodward was arrested after authorities discovered DNA evidence that connected Woodward to the murder.