Missoula police identify elderly man behind Nazi-inspired leafleting

Missoula Mayor John Engen addresses an interfaith gathering on Tuesday, where he announced that the individual behind recent antisemitic leafleting has been identified by local police. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston

The Missoula Police Department has identified the individual responsible for distributing Nazi-inspired leaflets across the city over the past few weeks, the city’s mayor announced on Tuesday.

Addressing a multi-faith gathering held to push back against the anti-Semitic leaflets, Mayor John Engen said an elderly man had been identified as the distributor, but offered few other details.

“What we can tell you at this point is, this man is in his 70s and lives in an assisted-living facility,” Engen said. “He has downloaded the literature that has been distributed around town from the Internet.”

One of the leaflets called for “free health care for the white working class” while another drew from a fabricated text that outlines a Jewish plan for global domination.

“The Jews’ purpose is to destroy us and our families from the inside out, slowly and gradually perverting us with their own special kind of poison,” the leaflet reads. “You can help stop them.”

The leaflet asks for a donation in exchange for an American Nazi Party “info pack.” The mailing address included a Post Office box in Westland, Michigan, but failed to include the name of any individual.

“Police are currently working with his family to ascertain what’s going on here,” Engen said. “We believe this person has acted alone and police will continue to do what police do, which is to protect and serve our community.”

The leaflets struck a chord of fear among members of the local Jewish community and prompted Lauri Franklin, a student rabbi and the spiritual leader of Har Shalom, to meet with local officials and law enforcement to encourage them to track the material.

While the leaflets were benign on their own, Franklin said, they succeeded in creating a climate of intimidation and fear.

“I want to assure people that law enforcement takes the spreading of hateful literature very seriously,” said Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott. “We have a zero tolerance on this. And while I’m a supporter of the First Amendment, it doesn’t allow someone’s freedom to target, or make the ugly jump into violence, against any individual or group of people.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com