Neo-Nazi leader arrested in Arizona for aggravated assault
From Julia Harte
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Burt Colucci, commander of one of the oldest white supremacist groups in the United States, was arrested on Monday in a suburb of Phoenix for pointing a loaded pistol at a black man and threatening him and his friends, him and his friends, according to police to kill records.
The confrontation began outside a hotel in Chandler, Arizona after Colucci put rubbish on the African American car and used racial slurs against them, Colucci police, the blacks and an independent witness said. Only Colucci was identified in the published police report.
According to the police report, Colucci said he merely put his semi-automatic pistol in a “low ready position” but the blacks said he pointed it at them and threatened to kill them, and the witness said she saw Colucci aim the gun on the men. According to the report, neither party knew each other.
A Maricopa County Supreme Court judge set Colucci’s bond on Tuesday at $ 7,500 and allowed him to travel to his home state of Florida. However, he said he must return to Maricopa County for his next hearing no later than April 25, according to court records. If convicted, Colucci faces at least three years in prison.
Two days before his arrest, Colucci led about 15 members of his group, the National Socialist Movement Corporation, to a rally in a park with ties to the African-American civil rights movement in Phoenix. In black uniforms and swastika bracelets, the group shouted racist surnames to black bystanders and urged them to fight.
Colucci told Reuters in an interview the day before the rally that his group has an estimated 100 members who pay dues but does not keep electronic membership records to avoid identifying members of the group who prefer to remain incognito.
Colucci also told Reuters that he wanted white people to “stand up for themselves” by, for example, feeling free to shoot black people who made them feel unsafe in public places.
Members of the Nazi movement attended the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was fatal when a car crashed into a crowd killed a counter-protester, 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The group is a defendant in an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by Virginia residents against those who attended the rally.
Since that rally, the Nazi movement’s presence and reputation in the broader White Nationalist movement has “shrunk exponentially,” but can still “evoke feelings ranging from discomfort to fear in communities where it operates,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center pass”.
(Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Donna Bryson and Dan Grebler)