The body of a 19-year-old U of Penn student was found last month in a California park, and as details of Blaze Bernstein's murder continue to emerge, so, too, does a disturbing picture of suspected killer Sam Woodward, 20, and the white supremacist group he's said to belong to. ProPublica dives deep into Atomwaffen Division ("Atomwaffen" means "nuclear weapons" in German), whose internal message boards lit up after Bernstein's killing. Members both celebrated Woodward as a "one man gay Jew wrecking crew" and raged that one of their own may have leaked Woodward's AWD affiliation. Although the group is open about their hatred of minorities, Jews, and gays—and their love of Hitler and Charles Manson—it's a notoriously secretive bunch that doesn't take kindly to "rats and traitors." ProPublica got its hands on about 250,000 AWD messages from encrypted logs on Discord, a chat platform meant for gamers but popular with white supremacist groups, with startling revelations.
The messages offer a frightening glimpse into the group's leaders, where members are located (as many as 20 cells may exist in several US states), and what "potential targets" may be, including water and electric utilities. "We haven't seen anything like Atomwaffen in quite a while," a Southern Poverty Law Center researcher says. "They should be taken seriously because they're so extreme." Others, though, think while some members may be dangerous, most just indulge in "magical thinking" about government overthrows and spend their time reading fascist lit. "It's very hard to go from talking about violence to looking a guy in the eyes and killing him," one expert says. ProPublica's in-depth take also includes details on AWD's supposed leader, who goes by the nickname "Rape," and the ire ProPublica itself received after it tied Woodward to AWD in a Jan. 26 article. "We really owe those jews at ProPublica," one member wrote in a chat message. More on AWD here. (Read more Longform stories.)