Two Missouri men face federal firearms possession charges after being arrested at a hotel, while they were on their way to a Trump rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The US Justice Department said Thursday that Michael M. Karmo, 40, and Cody E. Smith, 33, both of Hartville, Missouri, were arrested on September 1 at a hotel in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
According to the criminal complaint, the Kenosha Police Department told the FBI that a tipster had called an Iowa law enforcement agency to tell them that Karmo and another man – who was not named at the time – had guns and were traveling from their Missouri home to Kenosha.
Michael M. Karmo, 40 (left), and Cody E. Smith, 33 (right) face federal gun possession charges after being arrested in a hotel near Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 1
Authorities said a tipster told Iowa police that Karmo had guns and was traveling from Missouri to Kenosha. The tipster sent these text messages, supposedly from Karmo, to authorities
The tipster told authorities that Karmo and Smith – who are coworkers and roommates – were going to Kenosha ‘to loot and possibly “pick people off,”‘ according to the complaint.
The tipster also sent authorities a screengrab of text messages that Karmo apparently sent them, showing Karmo and a man holding what appeared to be a shotgun, as well as rifle. Karmo was said to have sent a text stating, ‘This is the game changer,’ along with the photos.
Karmo (pictured) and Smith were tracked down to a hotel outside Kenosha, after they attended a Trump rally in the city
A witness had also allegedly told authorities that Karmo had discussed conspiracy theories and ‘other “crazy” political talk,’ while also apparently claiming that Karmo was not in the right mindset to have a gun.
When FBI agents tracked down Karmo and Smith at the Pleasant Prairie hotel – which is about eight miles from Kenosha – the night of their arrest, they searched their room and car and found 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, the Justice Department said.
Due to Karmo’s prior felony convictions – on charges including car theft, burglary and parole violation – and Smith’s prior misdemeanor domestic battery conviction and acknowledged regular drug use, both men were prohibited them from having guns or ammunition the day of their arrest, according to the Justice Department.
The complaint claimed that Smith told authorities that he and Karmo were on their way to attend the September 1 rally for President Trump outside a Kenosha high school and that both men had wanted to see proof of the riots in the city.
Karmo (pictured) appears to be a Blue Lives Matter supporter, based on pictures he posted on his Facebook page in recent years
Authorities included this picture in the criminal complaint against Karmo, which appears to show him standing in front of Blue Lives Matter flags
Karmo (pictured) allegedly told authorities that he and Smith are part of a militia group
Karmo’s Facebook page includes several pictures of himself with guns and pictures of guns
Karmo and Smith told authorities they had traveled to Kenosha to see evidence of the protests themselves. A protester is shown lighting a cigarette on a garbage truck set on fire August 25
Police are seen with riot gear while squaring off against Kenosha protesters in August
Smith allegedly told authorities that two pistols had been locked inside Karmo’s car’s glove compartment while they were at the rally and that they had brought the guns with them to the rally to avoid leaving them unattended at the hotel.
Karmo allegedly told authorities that he didn’t own any guns beyond an air rifle and that he’d never carried a pistol. Karmo also allegedly said that he had only taken body armor and a drone on the trip and knew nothing about the silencer the FBI found in their possession.
Smith, meanwhile, told investigators that the silencer belonged to Karmo, who had wanted to test it, and that one of the pistols found belonged to Karmo, according tot he complaint.
According to the complaint, Karmo told authorites that he and Smith were part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia and that after going to Kenosha, the two planned to go to Portland, Oregon, to see what was happening there, noting that ‘he would be willing to “take action” if police were defunded.’
Facebook posts made by Karmo show him standing in front of a Blue Lives Matters flag and showing off various guns.
While being interviewed, Karmo also allegedly told authorities that while he and Smith had stopped to visit a friend in Iowa, the friend had ‘offended’ him because the friend had said that Karmo and Smith ‘looked like they were heading to Kenosha to shoot people.’
Karmon and Smith were charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Smith was also charged with aiding and abetting a felon’s possession of firearms; possession of firearms and ammunition by a prohibited person – misdemeanor domestic violence, and possession of firearms and ammunition by a prohibited person – unlawful user of a controlled substance.
Each of these offenses carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervision after release from prison.
Kenosha has been experiencing heated protests since a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, 29, a black man, in the back seven times during an arrest on August 23 while responding to a 911 call about an apparent ‘domestic incident.’
A witness claimed that Blake had been trying to intervene between women who were arguing on the sidewalk.
Blake survived the shooting but has been left paralyzed from the waist down.
The shooting kicked off nightly protests in the city, which have resulted in arson, looting and property damage.
Illinois teen Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, allegedly killed two protesters and wounded a third after traveling from his home to Kenosha. He was caught on video as he allegedly opened fire on social justice protesters on August 25, using the automatic rifle he’d brought with him.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said that he was defending himself after being attacked by a ‘mob’ who were protesting Blake’s shooting.