Civilians could be next target in extremist violence: top NYPD official

A top-ranking New York police official believes right-wing violent extremists also will target civilians going forward, rather than just government and elected officials like last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, he said Thursday.

John Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, was asked during a press conference call whether he had concerns that “right-wing groups” would move on from government targets to civilians.

“Yes,” he responded. “And I think we only need to study history to understand that.”

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Miller recalled Cesar Sayoch, a Florida man who in 2018 mailed pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and other opponents of President Trump. At one point, he planted an explosive in a building at New York City’s bustling Columbus Circle area, where CNN’s office is located.

“If we’re thinking that civilians haven’t been a target in the domestic violent extremism, we’re missing some of our own history.”

— NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller

Miller described how he placed pipe bombs “all across New York City.”

A device also was sent to a building that housed a CNN office in Atlanta. He targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, actor Robert De Niro and members of Congress. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Also in 2018, Robert Bowers, a 46-year-old Pittsburgh man killed 11 people and wounded six others when he opened fire at a synagogue, Tree of Life Congregation, in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Bowers expressed anti-Semitic, White supremacist views on social media platform Gab, according to reports at the time.

“That was a civilian target,” Miller said Thursday, “coming from, you know, a corner of the same movement.”

He recalled the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in California in 2019, when three people, including two children, were killed; and the El Paso Walmart shooting that same year, when 20 were killed and two dozen injured.

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“So, if we’re thinking that civilians haven’t been a target in the domestic violent extremism, we’re missing some of our own history because there has been a shift to government because of partisan politics,” Miller said.

On Jan. 6, a violent mob of hundreds of Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows, dismantling the property inside and making their way into the House and Senate chambers. Some were armed with guns, carried zip-ties or wore bulletproof vests.

Meanwhile, Hill staffers and lawmakers were under lockdown, or hid behind chairs, or under desks and tables.

Five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, died during or in connection with Wednesday’s events. Officials have arrested dozens so far, including one man who threw a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police. The hunt for suspects is ongoing

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The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center announced in a Joint Intelligence Bulletin on Wednesday that violent extremist activity likely will surge in the United States and pose “the greatest domestic terrorism threat in 2021,” according to the report obtained by Yahoo News.

The bulletin further describes how the events of Jan. 6 “will very likely serve as an enduring driver for violence by a range of domestic violent extremists.”

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