A prominent white supremacist who encourages acts of domestic terror and who once claimed to have influenced the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is a 27-year-old restaurant worker in California, a new HuffPost investigation has confirmed.
For years, a man using the pseudonym “Vic Mackey” has been the leading voice in a confederation of neo-Nazis called the “Bowl Patrol,” a reference to white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof’s “bowl cut” hairstyle.
In podcasts, videos and social media posts reviewed by HuffPost, Mackey has called on his followers — including nearly 1,000 on Telegram — to commit hate crimes, threatened activists and journalists with rape and violence and celebrated white nationalist massacres — in Christchurch, New Zealand; El Paso, Texas; Poway, California, and elsewhere — all while keeping his real identity secret.
Though it’s hard to know the exact number of people Mackey has influenced, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League see him as a leader in this network of extremists, some of whom have been arrested in connection with threats or plans of real-world violence in Roof’s name.
Even as so many other white nationalists have been unmasked in recent years — among them cops, soldiers and politicians — Mackey has remained elusive. But in recent weeks, the Anonymous Comrades Collective, a group of anti-fascist researchers, has traced Mackey’s online history and believes he is a man named Andrew Richard Casarez, a 27-year-old pizza delivery driver who lives in a Sacramento suburb.
HuffPost has also confirmed his identity via photos, videos and audio clips, and by speaking to people who have known Casarez over the years.
Casarez did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
His unmasking comes at a time when there has been a growing threat of violent right-wing extremism in the United States. A recent report from the Center For Strategic and International Studies found that from 1994 to 2020, there were nearly 900 terrorist attacks and plots in the country, nearly 60% of which were carried out by right-wing extremists. In 2019, domestic extremists killed at least 42 people in the United States, making 2019 the sixth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970, according to a February report put out by the ADL Center on Extremism.
With the white supremacist rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his Fox News bullhorn, the growing economic instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the heightened political tensions surrounding this year’s presidential election, violent extremism is expected to grow, according to CSIS.
“It’s a shame that there hasn’t been a Saint Roof event, another ‘take me to church’ event, and that we’re really due for another one.””
Already, six alleged members of neo-Nazi group The Base were arrested in January after police discovered plans to foment violence at a Virginia gun rights rally and to target an anti-fascist couple in Georgia. And five suspected members ― including two alleged leaders ― of the violent neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division were arrested in February after being accused of targeting journalists by calling police to their homes and dropping off threatening fliers.
Earlier this year, the FBI elevated the threat of racist extremism to a “national threat priority” for the fiscal year 2020. FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Judiciary Committee that the new distinction has put white supremacist violence on the “same footing as ISIS and homegrown violent extremists.”
Making Mass Shooters Into ‘Saints’
Dylann Roof stared blankly ahead during his first court appearance days after he gunned down nine Black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, HuffPost reported from the courthouse at the time. Roof was flanked by two guards in a remote room with a video screen connecting him to the rest of the court. Roof stood silent as families of the victims were given the opportunity to speak.
Nadine Collier, daughter of victim Ethel Lance, said she forgave Roof. Alana Simmons, granddaughter of victim Daniel Simmons, reminded Roof he had failed.
“Hate won’t win,” she told him. “My grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate. Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies live in love.”
On the other side of the country, Andrew Casarez was developing an obsession with Roof. Then 22, Casarez was living at home with his parents after a stint in college. A couple of years before, he was on probation for a DUI, public records show. As the years went on, Casarez would become entrenched in his worship of a murderer, working to build a base of like-minded racists who shared his dangerous ideology.
On Discord, a chat app popular among gamers but also frequently co-opted by right-wing extremists, a group emerged called “Bowl Patrol.” Though the exact date the group formed is unclear, members were posting as early as 2017, before that year’s deadly “Unite The Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to leaked chat logs obtained by independent media collective Unicorn Riot.
Many members called for lynchings and used racial slurs. Another member photoshopped an image of himself smiling while standing in front of a pile of dead bodies at a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust. And yet another, who described himself as the founder of the “Bowl Patrol,” described how the group’s memes would help condition people to carry out mass shootings.
“How are they gonna handle stomping a niglet’s head like a grape gusher if a meme is too much for them?” he wrote in one post.
This member’s username was “Vic Mackey,” a name borrowed from the racist, corrupt cop character on the TV show “The Shield.” He fashioned himself the leader of the Bowl Patrol, giving himself the nickname “Head Bowl in Charge,” and transformed the group into a congregation for Dylann Roof worshippers.
“Vic Mackey’s biggest contribution to the white power movement has been to normalize violence and glorify acts of terrorism.”
Eventually, Discord shut down the Bowl Patrol group, but Mackey and the other group members found homes elsewhere online, including on Gab and Telegram.
Mackey and a few other members produced a podcast, too, called “Bowlcast.” In a December 2018 episode, less than two months after a white supremacist named Robert Bowers allegedly shot and killed 11 people inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Mackey described how the attack had “totally reinvigorated” him.
“The night before that wonderful thing happened, before Saint Bowers went to synagogue, me and some other bowls on bowl patrol were talking with each other and saying … It’s a shame that there hasn’t been a Saint Roof event, another ‘take me to church’ event, and that we’re really due for another one,” Mackey said.
Mackey claimed Bowers had followed him on Gab and that the two had interacted. He also boasted that Bowers had posted memes created by the Bowl Patrol group.
“Robert Bowers is not going to be the last, not by far, he’s not gonna be the last,” Mackey said. “There is going to be a million Bowers flowers blossoming.”
In the year and a half since that episode, Mackey and Bowl Patrol members have “canonized” many more accused white nationalist mass shooters, often celebrating the lives of “Saint Crusius,” “Saint Earnest” and “Saint Tarrant.”
“Vic Mackey’s biggest contribution to the white power movement has been to normalize violence and glorify acts of terrorism,” Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told HuffPost recently.
Mackey and the Bowl Patrol’s emergence, Miller argued, exemplifies how American white nationalists have increasingly come to embrace “accelerationism” — the idea that acts of violence are needed to hasten the collapse of society so that a fascist and whites-only state can be constructed in its place.
In 2017, Miller said, prominent voices of the so-called alt-right, emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, were seeking to gain actual political power. New white nationalist groups like Identity Evropa came to prominence with the express intent of infiltrating the GOP. Fascist figureheads like Richard Spencer organized a series of high-profile rallies to promote their abominable ideas to the masses.
But the Bowl Patrol largely saw these attempts at using mainstream political channels as futile. People like Mackey, Miller said, argued that there was no way white nationalists were going “to vote themselves to an ethno-state.”
Instead, the Bowl Patrol promoted violence.
In a November 2018 episode of “Bowlcast,” for example, Mackey implored his listeners to read a “certain monosyllabic book,” a reference to “Siege” by neo-Nazi James Mason, which explicitly advocates lone-wolf terror attacks as a way to begin a race war and promotes the extermination of all nonwhites.
Thanks to anti-fascist activism, deplatforming by social media platforms and crackdowns by law enforcement, groups like Identity Evropa have fallen largely into disarray since the Charlottesville rally. Mackey and the Bowl Patrol seem vindicated by their failures and have continued to preach crass accelerationist sermons in podcasts and to post genocidal memes to Gab and Telegram.
“All the members of the Bowl Patrol are emboldened by the fact that people don’t know who they are,” Miller said.
Mackey, in particular, she added, “uses anonymity to his favor. And if his name and face are out there, he can’t do that anymore.”
Unmasking Andrew Richard Casarez
As Vic Mackey’s star rose in accelerationist circles, so too did the desire to uncover his real identity.
Last year, Unicorn Riot posted thousands of leaked Discord chats from the Bowl Patrol group. Then, on July 7, the Anonymous Comrades Collective published a blog post identifying Mackey as Andrew Richard Casarez, 27, of Orangevale, California.
HuffPost has since contacted multiple people who know Casarez and were able to identify him from his selfie and from audio clips of his podcast. For their protection, we are not publishing their names or any information that could be used to identify them. All fear the possibility of retribution.
Public records show that Casarez is indeed 27 and lives in Orangevale, a wealthy and predominantly white suburb of Sacramento. He has worked multiple restaurant jobs in the area, including as a pizza delivery driver. He also appears to have once attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
Calls and texts to phone numbers associated with Casarez have gone unanswered. Messages to the Vic Mackey account on Telegram, which has posted messages this month, also went unanswered.
Asked if the FBI was aware of Mackey and the Bowl Patrol, a spokesperson for the agency told HuffPost in an email that “in keeping with DOJ policy, the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of investigations.”
The spokesperson also emphasized that “when it comes to domestic terrorism, our investigations focus solely on criminal activity of individuals—regardless of group membership—which appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.”
“The FBI does not and will not police ideology,” the spokesperson said. If that ideology evolves into real-world crimes, however, the FBI could investigate.
Hometown Hate Crimes
Back in his hometown of Orangevale, at least two places of worship have been targeted in hate crimes. In 2017, Temple Or Rishon, a synagogue, was covered with more than a dozen posters praising Adolf Hitler, white supremacist website the Daily Stormer and Dylann Roof. And earlier this year, a newly opened Sikh temple was vandalized with a spray-painted swastika and the words “white power.”
Casarez seemed to relish the incident at Temple Or Rishon, posting an image from a surveillance video released by police that showed two white males with their faces covered approaching the synagogue. The photo had been edited to add bowl-style haircuts on the men.
“What absolute monsters could have done such a thing?!” he wrote.
On his podcast in 2019, Casarez mused about the best ways to strike terror into the Jewish community.
“I just wanted to say really quickly that it’s amazing what a few pieces of paper taped up across the street from a synagogue can do,” he said.
Casarez suggested wearing gloves when printing out the paper, and cautioned against using adhesive tape to put posters up because “it can remove paint, and they can consider it vandalism.” In the case of Temple Or Rishon, removing the posters also ripped the building’s paint off the walls, which gave investigators the property damage charge they needed to classify the vandalism as a hate crime.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, which has handled both hate crime incidents, told HuffPost they are investigating Casarez and seized a firearm from his home earlier this month.
In a Discord chat discussing the synagogue vandalism, Casarez promised: “Let’s just say there’s many more pranks to come.”
Role-Playing Hatred To Strangers
As the nation continues to reel from the killing of Black Minneapolis man George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, there have been waves of protests demanding accountability and an end to systemic racism. On June 3, thousands of people in San Francisco marched in a peaceful anti-racism demonstration.
Almost exactly a year prior, on the evening of June 2, 2019, Casarez was on the streets of San Francisco, livestreaming himself antagonizing passersby. Posing as a “citizen journalist,” he approached several different people walking down the sidewalk, claiming he worked for Tucker Carlson of Fox News. Most didn’t stop to talk; Casarez harangued them, calling out as they passed by that Trump had signed an executive order to free Dylann Roof. It was of course a lie, but he kept up his enthusiastic role-playing even as people largely ignored him.
“So you’re not a fan of Dylann Roof, is what you’re saying?” he asked a man and woman walking together.
“I don’t know who he is, and I don’t know who the fuck you are,” the man responded.
Later, as a Black man who had ignored Casarez walked out of earshot, Casarez turned to his screen and said, “Talk about an Uncle Tom. He doesn’t even care about Dylann Roof being free and killing niggers.”
Vic Mackey, the tough-guy persona that had inspired legions of white supremacists, was livestreaming his heroics. But in real life, Casarez was just alone on the street, talking to the glow of his screen.
This story has been updated to include information on the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department investigation into Casarez.