Increasingly radicalized by pro-Nazi and anti-cop extremism online, on June 3, 2020, Francis Harker, 22, of Norfolk, and an associate discussed “interrupting an unjust stop” by trapping and ambushing law enforcement at a shopping mall in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
A white supremacist in the Virginia Army National Guard who plotted to shoot and firebomb state troopers in 2020 will spend a few more years behind bars.
On Monday, July 25, in Norfolk, Senior US District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. sentenced Francis Phillippi “Frank” Harker to 57 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release when he exits a federal penitentiary, for being a drug user in possession of firearms.
Harker, 22, had faced up to 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine, but authorities agreed to a reduced sentence after he inked a plea deal with prosecutors on Jan. 10.
Harker’s court-appointed federal defenders declined to comment when reached by Coffee or Die Magazine. But in a July 11 jailhouse letter he penned to the judge from inside the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, Harker rued years of abusing drugs and a “lazy, weak and debauched way of life” for leading him astray.
“While I was free and nominally thriving, it was easy to justify this way of being, to the extent that I recognized it because it seemed to be working,” Harker wrote. “Since my arrest, that has been solidly disproven, and I have been able to confront myself with a clarity of which I could have never before dreamed.”
In late 2021, FBI agents discovered disturbing images possessed by Virginia Army National Guard Spec. Francis Harker. A poster called for the raping of police officers. It appeared to stem from propaganda created by the Sonnenkrieg Division, a British offshoot of the US-based Atomwaffen Division. The neo-Nazi organization seeks a National Socialist government through a violent “white revolution" in conjunction with a civil war based on race. A selfie photo also showed him giving a Nazi salute. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
That arrest came on Nov. 19, 2021, two days after a federal grand jury indicted him on the firearms charge.
It capped a seven-month probe by the FBI, which began when agents in Texas found Instagram users sharing plans to further what prosecutors called “racially-motivated violent extremism.”
A search warrant turned up an exchange of violent messages shared by Harker in the summer of 2020 concerning potential curfew enforcement and roadblocks by Virginia State Police troopers to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
While another conspirator seemed to dream about entering the “Golden Hall” of Viking lore after he was martyred in a shootout with police, Harker proposed a plan to both pin down the cops and escape from their clutches.
Using an aerial map, they began blueprinting an ambush at a Virginia City shopping center, a plot that promised to trap the officers in a kill zone while also affording the gunman a getaway through alleyways and over rough terrain.
On Nov. 4, 2021, FBI agents raided the Norfolk, Virginia, home of Virginia Army National Guard Spec. Francis Harker and recovered a Diamondback DB15 5.56mm-caliber semiautomatic rifle, a Taurus .22-caliber rifle, a Glock G17 Gen5 MOS 9mm-caliber semiautomatic pistol, a barrel for a .410 shotgun, ammo, and magazines. US Department of Justice photo.
On the same day they seemed to finalize the ambush plans, Harker walked into Superior Pawn in Virginia City and bought a Diamondback DB15 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle.
On the mandatory US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form to buy the weapon, Harker promised he was a lawful purchaser who didn’t abuse drugs.
At the time, Harker was a specialist in the Virginia Army National Guard who was bragging on his social media accounts that military orders didn’t stop him “from doing a bunch of drugs,” especially the mood-altering drug ecstasy.
On Nov. 4, 2021, FBI agents raided Harker’s house and recovered the Diamondback rifle, a Taurus .22-caliber rifle, a Glock G17 Gen5 MOS 9mm semi-automatic pistol, a barrel for a .410 shotgun, ammo, and magazines.
In his room, they also found a pair of powerful hallucinogens: LSD and DMT. He confessed to the agents he routinely tripped on both drugs.
But that wasn’t all that worried them. Agents also kept turning up social media conversations and images where he used racial slurs about Black Americans, appeared to embrace white supremacy, and glorified violence against law enforcement.
In late 2021, FBI agents searched the trunk of a car driven by Virginia Army National Guard Spec. Francis Harker and found precursor ingredients for Molotov cocktails. US Department of Justice photo.
One of the images he shared was a blood-spattered poster emblazoned with the phrase, “RAPE THE COPS.”
He took a selfie doing a Nazi salute and mocked those who wouldn’t follow the ideology as “racist bigots.” In another image, he typed that there “is no god by Hitler.”
He also admitted to the FBI that he was interacting with far-right members of The Base, a group he conceded was “interested in terrorism.” He found them through an online channel devoted to Aryanism.
In the trunk of his car, agents uncovered four Heineken beer bottles filled with Styrofoam, with socks for wicks, and alcohol. When mixed with gasoline, the alcohol and polystyrene act like napalm. Investigators concluded Harker was building Molotov cocktails.
The agents also recovered a message discussing the rape of female students in an electronics course he was taking. And they found a stack of COVID-19 vaccination certificates Harker had stolen when on duty with a National Guard medical task force.
He admitted giving dozens of the cards to friends.
FBI agents in late 2021 turned up COVD-19 immunization cards taken by Virginia Army National Guard Spec. Francis Harker and a disturbing message shared with online pals that seemed to suggest raping classmates in his electronics course. US Department of Justice photos.
Harker’s radicalization puzzled his parents, prosecutors, and agents, according to court records.
His father is a successful naval architect and his mom a school librarian. He loved his family and was loved back.
Other than a ticket for reckless driving, he had no criminal record, and he graduated from Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach in 2018 with an advanced diploma.
He appeared to be doing well in his apprenticeship, training to become an electrician. And he also seemed to enjoy being a soldier.
The Virginia Army National Guard has involuntarily separated him from military service.
Francis Harker, 22, of Norfolk, Virginia, remains incarcerated in the Western Tidewater Regional Jail pending transfer to a federal penitentiary. Western Tidewater Regional Jail booking photo.
Documents filed by prosecutors and Harker's attorneys painted a more disturbing portrait of the young man.
After his arrest, he was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression to go along with his untreated drug abuse.
In their sentencing memorandum to the court, Harker’s attorneys, Keith Loren Kimball and Suzanne Victoria Katchmar, argued his mental health problems and illicit narcotics use only exacerbated his toxic exposure to Nazi propaganda and anti-cop extremism.
They insisted Harker was drawn more to the shock value from violent and racist online discussions than he was to genuine fascist ideology. He was lonely and craved acceptance by a group of white friends, and he got caught in an online loop that rewarded increasingly radical and angry views, they wrote.
They urged the judge to sentence Harker to three years in prison.
The judge disagreed and gave the ex-soldier the max sentence under the guidelines.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
For more than 150 years, the Medal of Honor has been used to recognize acts of extraordinary battlefield courage performed in service to the United States.
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