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Aborted CDA riot investigation continues; defendants due in court next month

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Police Chief Lee White speaks during a Monday news conference.

CDA police chief reveals he and his officers have received telephoned death threats

The investigation is underway into an aborted riot attempt at a Pride event Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Police arrested 31 masked members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front and seized their van before they could drive to the celebration. Chief Lee White says officers were tipped off by a community member who had seen the group loading up a U-Haul van at a local hotel.

“I think some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation that we saw, but the equipment that was carried and worn by those individuals along with the large amount of equipment that was left in the van when the stop happened," he said.

The 31 defendants came from about a dozen states, some from the Northwest, but a handful from as far away as Alabama and Texas. They’re charged with conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor in Idaho. It’s punishable by a year in jail and/or a five thousand dollar fine.

A court official said the defendants are scheduled to appear before a judge for the first time on July 18.

Saturday’s arrests have not been universally praised.

White says the early returns from Coeur d'Alene residents of his department’s actions have been positive. But he says others, many from as far away as Norway, have called his department with words of derision.

"Of the 149 calls that we know of so far that have come in, they are about 50-50 split between individuals in our community who are happy to give us their name and tell us that they're proud of the work that we did and they're happy to be a part of this community and the other 50% who are completely anonymous and want nothing more than to scream and yell at us," he said.

White says some have suggested the situation was in some way staged. But during Monday's press conference White insisted that stories suggesting anyone other than the people arrested are responsible for Saturday’s events are wrong.

“Let me very clear here. These were not law enforcement officers that we arrested. These were members of the hate group Patriot Front. These were not Antifa in disguise, nor were they FBI members in disguise," he said.

Coeur d'Alene is again in the national spotlight for a race-related incident.

"We're not going back to the days of the Aryan Nations," Mayor Jim Hammond said. "We are past that and we will do everything we can to make sure that we continue to stay past those kinds of problems."

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.