Lance Corporal Vasillios Pistolis, 19, is stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and assigned to logistics. He has been active with a number of neo-Nazi organizations, according to ProPublica and Frontline, which have linked six other current and former members of the military to neo-Nazi groups.
“We’re looking into the allegations,” Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Adam Stump told ProPublica. Stump would not discuss any details while the investigation is ongoing. NCIS typically investigates potentially felony-level offenses involving personnel in the Navy or Marines.
The media investigations linked Pistolis to hate groups though records, photos and his own online comments to assaults during last summer’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
He bragged about the assaults online and was photographed appearing to beat a counter-protester. “Today cracked 3 skulls open with virtually no damage to myself,” Pistolis wrote online after the August rally, Frontline reported.
Pistolis has also been linked to the notorious Atomwaffen Division, an American neo-Nazi group that aims to incite a race war. Atomwaffen members, who idolize Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson, have been tied to five murders in the U.S. over a span of eight months, beginning last year. The group’s chat logs revealed chilling praise for the murder of 19-year-old gay Jewish college student Blaze Bernstein early this year.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday, urging him to launch an investigation into Pistolis and any other members of hate groups who serve in the military.
Ellison also called on the Defense Department to provide information to Congress detailing how the military screens for white supremacists or other hate group members before they join.
“The involvement of service members in white supremacist or other hate groups is cause for significant concern, particularly given their combat and weapons training,” Ellison wrote. The news reports may indicate a “broader problem within the military,” he warned.
Pistolis told ProPublica and Frontline that NCIS had questioned him about his activities months ago, but the investigation was apparently dropped. Sources told the media organizations there was an earlier investigation.
HuffPost could not immediately reach Pistolis for comment.