A search warrant unsealed Tuesday about a year after it was executed reveals that the FBI sought phone records of a disgruntled former re-enactor and Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation volunteer as part of its investigation into threats and a pipe bomb found during the Cedar Creek Civil War battle reenactment in 2017.
Jeannette Shaffer, president of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, said she was shocked when she found out it was a former re-enactor and volunteer who was under investigation.
“You would think they would be one of the last to threaten us,” Shaffer said.
She said she did not know the man well, only coming into contact with him a few times in the normal course of asking a volunteer to do something.
“I was surprised that one of our volunteers was being investigated,” she said. “We feel the volunteers we have active with us are good people.”
According to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg in support of a search warrant, the logo of Antifa, a group that has shown up at demonstrations around the country to oppose fascism and white supremacist ideologies, was used on threatening letters sent to the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, The Winchester Star, and others. The FBI, however, narrowed the investigation to one person, a former re-enactor.
There was no specific evidence in the search warrant affidavit to indicate whether the former re-enactor was involved in Antifa or whether the logo found on the letters was a ruse intended to throw off investigators.
Law enforcement agencies citing the ongoing investigation declined to answer that question.
FBI Public Information Officer Dee Rybisky said Wednesday that the bureau could not comment further on the ongoing investigation.
The Department of Justice also declined to answer whether the former re-enactor named in the documents was or has been arrested or is still the focus of the investigation.
The Northern Virginia Daily has not been able to locate any arrest records in the case and is not naming the suspect until an arrest or charges have been made and verified.
The former re-enactor and volunteer appeared to have become disgruntled after an altercation in 2014 that resulted in him being asked to leave his Confederate re-enactor unit, the document states.
A typed, threatening letter sent to the foundation in 2017 reads in part: “You need to cancel your coming up celebration of the Civil War on October 13, 14, 15, 2017. If you choose to continue with this farce of history, that clearly celebrates the war to keep African-Americans in chains, then we have no choice but to come and protest. We will come and disrupt and cause problems for all those who attend this atrocity of history. Several hundred of our supporters will attend, and slash tires, block traffic, harass Patrons, and reenactors. We will make Charlottesville look like a Sunday picnic! Many of us have dogs, so will bring dog feces to throw on people! We will also throw cups of human urine! We might resort to actually firing guns into the camps and at the reenactors! We will put poison in the water, we will use noise to disrupt the battles and sleep! These events must stop.”
The affidavit in support of the search warrant reveals the pipe bomb was found Oct. 14, 2017, the second day of the re-enactment, in a Civil War-era merchant tent on the battlefield property near Middletown. The pipe bomb was constructed using a metal pipe nipple, metal nuts glued to the pipe nipple, metal end caps, a 9-volt battery, wires, and a mercury switch. The inside of the pipe contained powder, low explosive ammunition propellant and BBs.
The remainder of the Cedar Creek event was canceled, and then other Civil War events were targeted.
During the course of the investigation, the FBI found eight pages of diagrams and drawings of a pipe bomb that the former re-enactor is alleged to have drawn in September 2004 while an inmate in an Ohio jail. The affidavit states he admitted to jail officials at that time that he did the drawings to convince another inmate he was familiar with explosives, according to the affidavit.
Threatening letters were sent in November 2017 to The Gettysburg Times, the mayor’s office in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and individuals in that state in reference to the Gettysburg Remembrance Day parade, according to the document. Those threats included running people over with trucks and a shooter stationed on a rooftop or at a hotel window.
Gettysburg is the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.
More letters were received locally in June 2018, including one to the Winchester Star addressed to Joseph D’Arezzo, who was then president of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation Board of Directors, according to the document. The letter writer threatened to kill a family member with a car bomb if the 2018 Cedar Creek Battlefield re-enactment was not canceled.
The 2018 Cedar Creek re-enactment was canceled due to the threats and the pipe bomb found the year before during the event.
D’Arezzo resigned in October 2018 as board president amid concerns he had that some board members were not taking the threats seriously enough.
Shaffer on Wednesday disputed that, saying: “We reached out to law enforcement, we stepped up security (for the 2019 event) with paid security. We did take it seriously.”
Threats were also made to other members and visitor center volunteers. Those targeted by the threats constitute a small group, including one full-time employee, 12 members of the board of directors, and a small number of volunteers, according to the document.
During the investigation, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation volunteers told investigators they felt the information in the letters came from someone who knew them and the daily operations of the visitors center, which helped the FBI narrow its focus, the document states.
Shaffer said she hopes the FBI can move forward and prove its case, an outcome she believes will help people feel secure in coming to future re-enactments.