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‘White Lives Matter’ racist firebombed church hosting drag events: Feds

Aimenn D Penny

“White Lives Matter” member Aimenn D. Penny, left, allegedly firebombed a church that hosted a drag brunch. (Photos via DOJ)

A racist “White Lives Matter” member firebombed an Ohio church that planned to host a “Drag Queen Story Time,” federal prosecutors say.

Ohio resident Aimenn D. Penny, 20, faces up to 30 years imprisonment if convicted on two charges of malicious use of explosive materials and possession of a destructive device in the March 25 attack. The FBI reported finding a Nazi flag, a White Lives Matter of Ohio T-shirt, and other hateful memorabilia in Penny’s home, along with a gas mask, multiple rolls of blue painter’s tape, and gas cans.

Penny is one of the men suspected of throwing Molotov cocktails at the Community Church of Chesterland, allegedly in response to the congregation’s plans to hold two drag-related events on Saturday, April 1. The church’s representatives reported receiving hate mail before last week’s attack, which scorched its front door, damaged the exterior and broke a sign at the corner of the property. Surveying the grounds of the crime scene, Chester Township Police said they recovered broken glass pieces from bottles of Denaka Vodka and Corona beer.

“Violence and destruction are never an acceptable way to express a disagreement with a particular viewpoint,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler, for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a statement.

Well before the Molotov cocktail strike, authorities say, Penny showed up to another drag queen event on March 11, where members of White Lives Matter were carrying “swastika flags and shouting racial and homophobic slurs and ‘Heil Hitler.'”

The Wadsworth Police Department says that they saw Penny there distributing anti-drag flyers.

Months earlier, on Oct. 11, 2022, the Alliance Police Department saw Penny distributing hateful flyers, too.

“Penny told the police that the flyers were an effort to spread the ‘word,'” the affidavit supporting Penny’s criminal charges states. “In Penny’s opinion, African Americans were the ‘problem.’ Further, he wanted to educate everyone about their violence toward white Americans. Penny stated that he believed African Americans were solely responsible for the high crime rate across the country. Penny further made it clear that he believes — and looks forward to — the civil war coming between races. Penny expressed his belief that the United States will not prosper until all the other races, or ‘weaknesses’ as he called them, are gone.”

Those authorities say they saw Penny carrying a very large hunting knife and expandable baton, which weren’t concealed.

Penny also told the police that he owns a gun, according to the charges.

After securing Penny’s cellphone records, the FBI recorded executing a search warrant on his home. There, the bureau says, Penny admitted to agents in a recorded interview that he built and deployed the Molotov cocktails at the church.

“Penny stated that he was trying to protect children and stop the drag show event,” the complaint states. “Penny described using bottles from his bedroom and detailed the ingredients and steps he used to build and use the devices. Penny stated that night, he became more and more angry after watching internet videos of news feeds and drag shows in France and decided to attack the church. Penny stated that he would have felt better if the Molotov cocktails were more effective and burned the entire church to the ground.”

Read the complaint here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."