Suspected neo-Nazi leader charged with violating gun ban under state's red-flag law

Prosecutors have charged the suspected leader of Washington’s chapter of a neo-Nazi group with unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of a court order issued under the state's red-flag law.

The Seattle Times reports Kaleb Cole was charged with the gross misdemeanor Monday. A warrant was issued for his arrest in Washington, with bail set at $20,000.

The warrant is linked to an incident in Texas, where Cole was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by police and found to have guns in the vehicle.

Court documents list his last known address as a residence in Arlington, but officials didn't say if they know his current location.

A judge granted Seattle Police Department’s petition for an “extreme risk” protection order against Cole in October. His firearms were confiscated and he was banned from possessing guns for a year, though he was not charged with a crime when his guns were seized.

Under the state's Extreme Risk Protection Order law, law enforcement officers, family or people living in the same house can petition the court to take away someone's guns. The court must find that the person displays a significant risk of hurting themselves or others.

According to court documents, Cole is a known leader in a dangerous white supremacist group. He's been on law enforcement's radar since at least 2018, when he was stopped at U.S. Customs upon returning from a trip to Europe.

Authorities searched his cell phone and found photos of him at various sites throughout Europe, displaying a white supremacist flag and performing the Nazi salute. He also posed in front of Auschwitz.

The group for which Cole is a state leader is nationally recognized as a terrorist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is known for its skull masks, antisemitic propaganda and organized "hate camps." Nationally, authorities claim the group is linked to five murders.

In Washington, police claimed Cole's risk of committing violence was ramping up. In a petition to seize his guns, police said his participation in organizing and recruiting at these "hate camps" in the state was concerning, "as it appears that he has gone from espousing hate to now taking active steps or preparation for an impending 'race war.'"

Authorities said at these camps, videos show members making threats of mass violence aimed at Jewish people and proclamations to start a "race war."