Anti-Defamation League, Pueblo temple official commend FBI, local law enforcers for their work

DENVER —The FBI here revealed Monday that they arrested a man late Friday night in Pueblo after he allegedly said he was going to go blow up the city's historic Temple Emanuel because he hates Jews.

Richard Holzer is charged with attempting to obstruct the free exercise of religious beliefs through force and the attempted use of explosives and fire.

Holzler, 27, of Pueblo, was brought Monday to the U.S. District Court for Colorado in Denver for a judge to advise him of the charge he is facing and of his constitutional rights.

The arrest was made by undercover FBI agents at a Pueblo motel where they and Holzer were discussing his imminent intention to demolish the temple before sunrise Saturday.

The FBI said Holzer's "actions meet the (statutory) definition of 'domestic terrorism.'"

Police Chief Troy Davenport told The Pueblo Chieftain, "Pueblo is a diverse community and is characterized by inclusivity. This kind of behavior is frankly intolerable."

He made his comments after a press conference in Denver in which he, Jason R. Dunn, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, and Dean Phillips, agent in charge of the FBI in Colorado, spoke about the arrest.

Davenport said his detectives on the Safe Streets Task Force, which includes the police department and the FBI, assisted the FBI with Friday night's operation. He commended the FBI's work.

Holzer is being held in custody until at least Thursday when he will be back in court for a judge to decide whether he can be released on a bond.

The investigation began in September when an FBI covert employee saw comments that Holzer allegedly posted on his Facebook accounts that promoted white supremacy and acts of violence, the affidavit states.

In one post, Holzer wrote, "I wish the Holecaust really did happen ... they need to die," according to the FBI. In another post, he allegedly wrote: "I really would like to go kill a bunch of pedophiles and then die in a cop shootout."

The affidavit also says Holzer told the FBI that he paid someone $70 a year ago to put arsenic in Temple Emmanuel's water pipes, causing it to shut down for months. The temple's president, Michael Atlas-Acuna, told The Chieftain that did not happen.

Atlas-Acuna said his initial thoughts upon learning of the incident early Monday morning were to commend the FBI and local law enforcement for stopping what could have been a tragedy.

“I am glad they caught him. We take security very seriously. We are not going to be intimidated and we are not going to be victims,” Atlas-Acuna said Monday afternoon.

“As Jews in Pueblo, we’ve always had a good relationship with our community and we love where we are,” he said.

“It’s concerning that it’s now in Pueblo. We’ve had our synagogue vandalized in the past. We don’t know it was anti-Semitic related or not. It very concerning especially with everything that is going on in the country today and that’s from the left and the right politically."

Likewise, the Anti-Defamation League commended law enforcement for taking swift action in arresting Holzer.

ADL’s Center on Extremism has tracked the online rhetoric of Holzer since May 2016 and has repeatedly shared information with law enforcement, citing concerns he might be a danger to public safety.

“White supremacists continue to pose a serious threat to Jews and other communities in the United States and in our own backyard as this arrest indicates,” said ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott Levin.

“We commend law enforcement for acting quickly to prevent this individual from engaging in life-threatening violence. No one should have to live in fear of white supremacy, simply because of who they are or where they pray.”

This marks the 13th time since the deadly rampage at the Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that a white supremacist has been arrested for allegedly plotting attacks or making threats against the Jewish community, according to a recent ADL report.

Meanwhile, the case drew national attention to Pueblo as Holzer's arrest was the top national story on several media at times during the day, including on CNN.

The case is considered so significant by the U.S. Justice Department that two of its top officials in Washington, D.C., also gave national news organizations information about Holzer's alleged plot and arrest.