When cops in Gloversville, New York, stopped a tan minivan late last month for a routine traffic violation, it soon became clear they had in fact stumbled upon an armed neo-Nazi pagan survivalist allegedly doing reconnaissance in advance of a bank robbery.
The driver of the minivan, who was monitoring the officers’ own radio communications using a scanner and wearing all-black clothing, black gloves, and a ballistic vest, said he didn’t have any ID on him. But he did have a diary next to him on the front seat—in which he laid out his plan in barely coded language, investigators claim.
“Its [sic] coming up to the end of the year and I am flat broke with nothing but a gun and a dream,” Luke Kenna wrote in a Nov. 19 entry, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast. “I’m going to fulfill my destiny one way or another. And It’s going to take bold action to do so. I have already set in motion a plan to start it all off. I’m writing a ‘screen play’ [sic] on a movie about 3 guys that rob a small bank and set off with a large amount of cash and get set up for things to come so as to keep their families safe and sound, Protected.”
The note, combined with numerous additional pieces of evidence, including detailed online chats between Kenna, 43, and two others, was enough for federal prosecutors to charge the pagan survivalist with conspiracy to commit bank robbery, a felony count that carries up to five years in prison.
After hitting the bank, Kenna was plotting to hold up a restaurant where he once worked “to throw some terror into them for payback and also to get some funds up,” the complaint states.
Kenna runs Tyr Tactical Training, a business in Gloversville teaching “primitive skills,” according to the complaint. The Tyr rune is an ancient Germanic symbol that was “appropriated by the Nazis in their attempts to create an idealized ‘Aryan/Norse’ heritage,” according to the ADL, which said the so-called warrior rune was used by the leadership schools of Hitler’s brownshirts and at least one Waffen SS infantry division. The complaint against Kenna, who has been connected to the Wolves of Vinland, a neo-pagan hate group with roots in Virginia, says his social media profiles feature imagery “consistent with white supremacist ideology,” including the Nazi “Black Sun,” confederate flags, and “pagan symbols/runes.”
Kenna, who cops say had an unlicensed, untraceable, “ghost gun” tucked into his waistband and a large knife in his vehicle when he was stopped on Nov. 26, does not yet have a lawyer listed in court records. A number listed for Tyr Tactical Training was out of service on Wednesday.
Following Kenna’s arrest by the Gloversville PD on state charges of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, and unlawful wearing of a body vest, investigators searched his cellphone for further clues.
On it, they found conversations on Threema, an encrypted chat service, between Kenna and two others, including a former paramedic in Pennsylvania named Michael J. Brown Jr., who is known in far-right circles by the nom de guerre “Doc Grimson.” Brown, who sells knives and training courses through his company, Black Market Tactical, and is charged in the bank robbery conspiracy alongside Kenna, planned to drive to Upstate New York to take part in the heist, the feds say, citing the chat logs.
The pair, along with a third, unnamed, co-conspirator, began devising the bank job in mid-November, according to the complaint. On Nov. 14, Kenna created a group chat on Threema titled “SS Screenwriters Guild,” using the alias “Lt.,” it states. Brown, according to the complaint, went by the alias “Russ.”
At 6:38 that evening, the complaint says Kenna sent the group two screenshots of a map with a red “X” marking the location of a Community Bank, N.A. branch in Johnstown, New York, about a 10-minute drive from Gloversville.
The next day, Kenna followed up with a formal greeting.
“So with that I like to welcome you gentlemen to the SS screenwriters Guild once we get closer to the actual event date we will probably compartmentalize a Screen Actors Guild group and do a rehearsal and dry run of at least the timing on things such as the distance in movement on foot Etc I will be posting the script as it comes in here and all actors parts and lines to rehearse for the big day,” Kenna wrote, according to the complaint.
He then followed up: “I would also like to say that I am both honored and extremely pleased to have both of you gentlemen here on this project with me I know that it’s going to be a hit and we’re going to make it all the way to Broadway if you know what I’m saying.”
Brown soon started making arrangements to travel to Kenna’s neck of the woods, messaging him that he would be arriving on Nov. 26 “to discuss the screenplay,” the complaint states.
“Oh shit!!!. So fucki.g stoked for this!” Kenna allegedly responded.
Brown promised to bring a custom-made “sweeper” knife he was forging for Kenna, who, according to the complaint, said the two could “do some recon and walk a bit if you dog what I’m saying. Still haven’t made it in there this week yet to get interior pics but will be before weeks end.”
A few hours later, the feds say Kenna sent the group an audio message saying he had “clocked the bike trail from his house to the location of the ‘meetup’ as ‘right around 2.5 miles,’” adding that he was drawing up “some maps” and “backup plans.” As a contingency, the complaint says Kenna told the others they should have at least one bag “to ditch or bury, just in case.”
“I’ve talked to some guys who have done this before and they all agree that it’s always good to have a bag buried,” Kenna allegedly said. “Just in case things go awry, then you have something to look forward to when you get out.”
Kenna and the others later discussed weaponry, telling Brown he had “one clean p80,” apparently referring to the build-at-home Polymer 80, an untraceable weapon known as a “ghost gun,” since it bears no serial number. He said he had a radio signal jammer on order, and Brown said he’d work on procuring two more unserialized P80s before the Nov. 26 robbery.
Over the next week or so, Kenna and the others worked out the rest of the details. And even though Kenna was concerned that local law enforcement could be “keeping eyes” on him, he was steadfast in going forward with the plan.
“[W]e will not abort, we will just change plans,” he told the others in another voice message, according to the complaint. “There is no aborting this.”
Brown suggested the crew split the proceeds from the robbery three ways, and Kenna agreed, urging the team to “not take too long planning, ya know, some people take years and years, it’s a little too much, and not take too short, not to just jump in and do it like a junkie,” the complaint goes on.
It says Kenna assured the others he’d handle the surveillance “because I’m in the area and because I’m a customer so I can just go in and be nosey.”
After a Nov. 18 reconnaissance mission, Kenna allegedly wrote to the group, “Looks like we’re getting this paper jew money while it lasts. Just in time to invest into bigger and better things… Working up some stage setup and draft plays on paper now. Was dark at 5pm today. Perfect. By the time of the big day it will already be dark when the ‘guys’ get there.”
Kenna subsequently sent photos of the bank, which he called the “stage,” and some pictures of some nearby woods, which he referred to as “backstage.” On Nov. 21, Kenna sent Brown a number of videos of himself driving to the bank, in which he talked about “carrying about 100 lbs. [of cash] each at least” away from the upcoming robbery, the feds say. Kenna then sent Brown some still shots from outside the bank, his reflection visible in the glass door.
On Nov. 21, five days before the planned heist, the feds say Brown messaged the group, saying, “I am working on acquiring a heavier prop for this movie as well for my part,” allegedly referring to a more powerful firearm. “if something goes sides ways [sic] and we decide to turn this into an action thriller I’d prefer to have something really nice for the audience.”
Following some more back and forth about operational details, Kenna sent a list of “items needed for each actor,” which included burner phones, faraday bags, walkie talkies, balaclavas, gorilla tape, body armor, weapons, and zip ties. He also sent a direct message to Brown, saying he didn’t know how long Brown was staying in the area but that he was “actually planning a little side thing,” the complaint states.
“I’m going to hit that bar and restaurant up that I used to work at up at the golf course,” Kenna allegedly wrote. “Cuz I believe they are having going on and after Thanksgiving that Sunday they should be pretty good at least a couple grand aint [sic] gonna be nothing big… but more to throw some terror into them for payback and also to get some funds up because I’m pretty fucking broke. All my money is invested into this thing we’re doing and a lot of other things.”
Brown, according to the complaint, responded, “As always we are thinking along the same lines! Was going to ask you if you had any side projects u wanted to collaborate with while I’m up this weekend! I’m down.”
A review of automatic license plate reader data showed a Ford F-150 pickup registered to Brown traveled from Pennsylvania to the Johnstown/Gloverville, New York, area on Nov. 26 “to conduct surveillance and planning operations in furtherance of the bank robbery conspiracy,” the complaint states.
During a subsequent search of Kenna’s home, agents discovered a DVR containing surveillance video of Kenna leaving his home on Nov. 26, the day he was pulled over in Gloversville. In the footage, the complaint says Kenna is dressed in all-black, with a black backpack and sunglasses, which the complaint deems “highly suspicious and indicative of an individual who may have been intending to commit a crime or conduct surveillance operations while remaining undetected.”
McKenna is scheduled to appear before a judge on Wednesday afternoon in Albany federal court. Officials at Community Bank, N.A. did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.