Two men from Missouri have been arrested and charged after law enforcement received a tip that the pair were traveling to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with assault-style weapons, the Justice Department announced.
The arrests come as civil unrest and violence flooded Kenosha after law enforcement shot Jacob Blake seven times after Blake resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him. The shooting turned Kenosha the latest center of attention for police brutality and reform. During the demonstrations, two people were fatally shot and a third wounded by an alleged 17-year-old boy. His lawyers say he was acting in self-defense.
Michael M. Karmo, 40, and Cody E. Smith, 33, were arrested on Sept. 1 on federal charges of illegal possession of firearms at a hotel located near Kenosha, federal officials said.
The FBI became alerted about the pair after a law enforcement agency in Iowa received a tip that Karmo and an unidentified male were in possession of firearms and were traveling from Missouri to Kenosha to “loot and possible ‘pick people off,'” according to court documents (pdf).
Text messages between Karmo and the tipster allegedly showed Karmo holding a rifle with another male holding what appeared to be a shotgun. Meanwhile, the tipster told law enforcement that on Aug. 31, Karmo told him that he was going to go to Kenosha with the intention of possibly using the firearms on people, the court documents said.
During their investigation, law enforcement found photos of firearms, including assault-style rifles, on a social media account under the name of “Michael Karmo.” Authorities used information from the tipster and social media to track down Karmo who they found with Smith outside of a Toyota Highlander vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel in Wisconsin.
After a search of their vehicle and hotel room, which Karmo and Smith consented to, FBI agents recovered an Armory AR-15 assault rifle, a Mossberg 500 AB 12-Gauge shotgun, two handguns, a silencer, ammunition, body armor, a drone, and other materials, according to the criminal complaint.
Federal prosecutors said both Karmo and Smith had prior felony convictions and could not legally possess firearms and ammunition.
In an interview, Smith told the FBI that he and Karmo traveled from Missouri, where they were housemates, to attend a President Donald Trump rally on Sept. 1. They had attended to also visit Detroit, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, according to the complaint.
Karmo also told the FBI that the pair worked together and are part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia. He said the pair decided to drive to Kenosha to “see for themselves” what was going on regarding the riots and had planned to go to Portland, Oregon to do the same. He also told agents that he was also willing to “take action” if police were defunded, the complaint stated.
Karmo has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, meanwhile Smith was charged with aiding and abetting a felon’s possession of firearms, and two counts of possession of firearms and ammunition by a prohibited person.
If convicted the two men could face up to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervision after release from prison.