A suspected member of the the right-wing sovereign citizen movement was arrested at a Boston bus station carrying a gun and ammunition after purchasing ingredients that could be used to make explosives, the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement Friday.
City resident Pepo Herd El was apprehended Thursday night as he exited a bus at the downtown station. He had a loaded Glock pistol, three additional magazines filled with ammunition, a knife and a bulletproof vest, according to the statement from U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. He was also wearing a security guard jacket, though he is “not believed to work as a security guard.
El, who has been under surveillance, was “suspected of compiling chemicals that can be used to manufacture explosives,” according to the statement. The chemicals were allegedly found during a search of his home following his arrest.
Because of a 2004 felony conviction for having firearms without permits, El is prohibited from possessing guns or ammunition, according to the criminal complaint against him. He was charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and has been detained pending a Dec. 2 hearing.
El’s social media activity shows he is an “adherent” of the anti-government sovereign citizen movement, according to a statement given by Steven Kimball, an FBI agent on Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The Anti-Defamation League describes the movement as a broad collection of individuals and groups with a right-wing anarchist ideology rooted in racism. Kimball said members “claim to have special knowledge or heritage rendering them immune from government authority and laws” and taxes. They can be violent, and some have “engaged in shootings and armed standoffs with law enforcement,” he noted.
According to records obtained by the FBI, El has spent some $10,000 since January 2019 on Amazon and eBay, with “approximately half of the purchases” relating to “firearms, chemicals, security, or other concerning items,” Kimball said.
El allegedly ordered several accessories for a Glock 27 pistol, including extended ammunition magazines, a laser sight and a concealable shoulder holster. He also ordered a firing pin modification that would allow easy, rapid firing of several rounds of ammunition from a Glock, Kimball reported, as well as a police patch, a car siren, and hats with logos from Home Depot, Amtrak and AT&T, presumably for possible use as disguises.
The chemicals found in his home each have an “innocent household or industrial use,” Kimball noted. “However, several can also be used or combined to create incendiary or explosive compounds,” including a dangerous compound known as “black powder.” He also reportedly purchased a 20-foot-long model rocket fuse.
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