Emails: FBI, local police communicated about Patriot Front presence in North Idaho long before June arrests

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – Law enforcement and human rights organizations in North Idaho were aware of the actions of the Patriot Front group for more than a year before Coeur d’Alene Police arrested a “small army” of members at the Coeur d’Alene Pride event.

The nonprofit group Property of the People posted a batch of documents Monday related to the group’s activity leading up to the June 11 arrests.

Emails detail actions attributed to Patriot Front and also other groups believed to be spreading hate in North Idaho.

In an email dated August 3rd, a Coeur d’Alene Police crime analyst lists complaints and calls of hate messages throughout the community.

Included are reports of “Patriot Front recruitment signs” near the Farmer’s Market in Kootenai County’s jurisdiction. The Human Rights Education Institute reported that a “white supremacy sticker was placed over an existing business logo campaign for the organization.”

“The sticker was described as 4×4 in size with Patriot Front,” the report says. It mentions similar signs placed in the community in the weeks prior.

Repeated complaints about Patriot Front literature in 2021

In June 2021, a citizen reported a white supremacist sign placed on the 9th street bridge that referred people to the Patriot Front website.

A maintenance worker for the City of Coeur d’Alene also emailed and said he removed 15 Patriot Front signs and stickers from McEuen Park in June 2021.

Earlier that spring, three men wearing face masks were seen placing signs and stickers on the North Idaho College campus. Those stickers also promoted the Patriot Front organization.

In September 2021, the Human Rights Education Institute emailed Coeur d’Alene Police to report someone had tagged their building with Patriot Front messaging. The director said it was the second time that agency had been targeted.

A picture of the sicker has the Patriot Front website and the message “Better dead than red.”

Police Chief: “We hadn’t had any issues with that group”

At the time of the Pride event arrest in June 2022, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White didn’t mention the past complaints about the group and the research done by his agency.

“We hadn’t had any issues with that group here previously,” Chief White said in a news conference on June 13.

“There were a number of us that were aware of this group because of a video online or they were mentioned as part of a subset of another hate group in this area, but I have never seen that type of activity in my eight years working for the police department.”

In an email to 4 News Now Tuesday, White clarified the activity he’s referring to is the one where he had not seen a riot or groups preparing to incite a riot.

The emails obtained by Property of the People also include an email from Post Falls Police sent to Coeur d’Alene Police and the FBI on August 2, 2021.

In that email, Sgt. Neil Uhring writes that “our city and CDA were papered with a large number of Patriot Front posters… The Patriot Front has been listed as a white-nationalist organization and has some III% undertones.”

Around the same time, an email was sent to Steve Widmyer, who at the time, was the mayor of Coeur d’Alene. It was from a concerned citizen who saw one of the Patriot Front signs and took it down.

Widmyer responded that it was “at least the 4th one that we’ve had.”

“We need to catch these people,” Widmyer said. “It’s disgusting.”

Widmyer forwarded the email to the city administrator, who sent it on to Chief White.

Agencies in North Idaho were increasingly concerned about potential hate groups as the Pride event got closer in June 2022.

FBI, other agencies sharing information 

A crime analyst from Idaho Falls Police sent an email to Coeur d’Alene Police in May, citing a tip from the FBI.

“The tip was that Panhandle Patriot Club threatened to physically assault individuals taking part in the pride parade in Idaho Falls on 6/25/2022.” The tip cited the group on video saying “If gays want a war, we’ll give them a war.”

The FBI also told Idaho Falls Police, according to the email, that “the reporting party also stated they would also attack the pride parade in Coeur d’Alene on June 11th.”

Coeur d’Alene Police responded to the email, saying “We are aware of and have been assessing threats, comments and various postings for weeks.”

The crime analyst who wrote the email said “at this point, we are working with the FBI here as well as our surrounding agencies to develop a plan for the CDA June 11th event.”

“Our chief and command staff also met with a couple members from the Panhandle Patriots to create a rapport and help guide them with their plans for June 11th.”

Response to the arrests and information

The largest batch of emails obtained by Property of the People shows the fallout and response to the arrests on June 11.

Coeur d’Alene Police arrested 31 Patriot Front members, who were later charged with Conspiracy to Commit Riot.

All of the members bonded out and have been ordered to return for court appearances later this summer.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to say if anyone in the group faces federal charges.

Several emails are from community members, commending Coeur d’Alene Police for their response.

Other emails characterize the event as a “false flag” and say it was orchestrated by feds in disguise.

“Congrats on your false flag work, you traitors,” wrote one person, who called themselves “John fbi.”

When asked about the history of the Patriot Front in Coeur d’Alene in light of these emails being released, Chief White told 4 News Now, “We did not have any intelligence that Patriot Front was coming prior to the arrest. As far as the FBI goes, we talk with our local office on a semi-regular basis but they were not part of the arrest.”

“We were familiar with the hate literature from this and other groups, but oftentimes it is just one or two individuals who spread these messages of hate.  We did not know there was an organized group of Patriot Front members in the area prior to June 11,” he added.”

Human rights group speaks on arrests and Patriot Front’s previous activity

Jeanette Laster, with the Human Right Education Group, says she continued to see Patriot Front’s posters around the Lake City last year during the summer through the end of fall.

Laster said she and other people went around taking the posters down, recognizing the messaging was white supremacist ideologies.

“No matter how much these individuals tote that they’re not violent and they just do the vandalism aspect of that and share their messaging, the climate and intermixing with new individuals sometimes provides outlying alignment with other extremist groups that may lend itself in the future to violent activity,” Laster said over the phone to 4 News Now.

She said it’s crucial for people to report anything they see that’s suspicious, no matter how minimal, “it’s important,” Laster said.

“We, at HREI, and I can speak for the community at NIC – we felt like we had a great response as far as reporting is concerned. The most important part of that, that people don’t understand, reporting is the key element of what helps in the long run,” she said,

Laster said she’s grateful for the police and their collaboration with them in previous years as HREI works to educate people about how dangerous ideologies such as Patriot Front’s can be dangerous.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Former Rep. Matt Shea’s group denounces patriot front in pro-life rally

RELATED: Court: Patriot Front members to be arraigned in-person starting in mid-July