CANYON COUNTY — Between the Hammerfest concert earlier this fall and the Canyon County shooting incident involving Kyle Alan Batt — a self-identified “racist” and “Nazi” — white supremacists seem a bit more visible than they’ve been in the past.
Police videos from 2007 show Batt shouting racial slurs at law enforcement officers, and photos posted on Facebook show him with “white power” tattoos.
Tim Higgins, deputy warden at the Idaho Department of Correction and an expert on gangs, said it’s a trend throughout the country. Racist groups aren’t necessarily growing in number, he said, but they’ve been making a bit more noise lately.
“We are seeing it more visibly, not just here, but nationally,” Higgins said. “Just being out in the open. The KKK is probably the most visible.”
Kieran Donahue, Canyon County’s chief deputy and Sheriff-elect, said he hasn’t seen any signs that local racist groups are growing in power or influence. They’ve always had a presence throughout the Treasure Valley, he said, and law enforcement has always kept close watch.
“I don’t know that it’s grown any larger. I think we see a steady flow of those types of people,” Donahue said. “It’s something we keep an eye on, and when those cases come about, we certainly address them with due diligence.”
Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Taylor, meanwhile, said his office has not prosecuted any specific white supremacist-related hate crimes.
The Hammerfest concert — a touring festival put on by the Texas-based Hammerskins — went off without incident in September near Melba. Any group has the right to peacefully assemble, Donahue said, regardless of ideology. But the Sheriff’s Office made sure to lay down some ground rules before the skinheads arrived.
“We knew where it was at, we knew the location of it, and we had contact with the organizers,” Donahue said. “We handed down pretty solid parameters of what we expected of them and what they could expect from us if they were to get out of hand. They kept it private, kept it on an even keel, and we had no incidents to report.”
Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, monitors racist groups throughout the country. He speculates the increased visibility of local groups may be connected to the Aryan Knights, a racist Idaho-based prison gang.
But Tim Higgins, deputy warden at the Idaho Department of Correction and an expert on gangs, isn’t so sure. There are different types of racist gangs, and they don’t all get along.
Higgins described the Aryan Knights as a “neo-confederate” gang — a predominantly Caucasian criminal business enterprise. Neo-confederates often do business with other ethnic gangs, and may even have nonwhites as members.
The Hammerskins, on the other hand, are a neo-Nazi organization. They oppose everyone who isn’t white, Higgins said, along with anyone who associates with nonwhites — including neo-confederates.
“Inside a prison, there’s always a line drawn between the neo-confederates and the neo-Nazis,” Higgins explained. “The neo-confederates think they should be able to control the neo-Nazis, because they’re much stronger. They have more money, more resources, more friends. And the neo-Nazis think they should have nothing to do with the neo-confederates, because they deal with the nonwhites.”
But from a law enforcement perspective, Higgins said, a gang is a gang. The law doesn’t care what color their skin is.
“They’re criminal organizations that band together to commit crimes, and so it really does not much matter to us,” he said. “We’re going to target these criminal organizations and take them out. And I can tell you, it’s a systems approach to doing that. It’s not just one agency. Most of these investigations involve 13 to 15 agencies.”
Donahue agrees. Racist groups have associates, identifiers such as tattoos, and have been known to engage in criminal activity in furtherance of the group. That makes them a gang, he explained, and they’re treated like any other.
Racist gangs — like motorcycle gangs — often put prospective new members through a months-long probationary period, Pitcavage said. This serves to both indoctrinate them into the group’s ideology and to evaluate their suitability for full membership.
And once they’re in, racist gangs have surprisingly elaborate mechanisms in place to keep them loyal — although they’re not always as effective as the leaders may hope. After joining a gang behind bars, Pitcavage explained, a member may go his own way once he’s set free — despite the gang’s efforts to retain him.
But even so, they may continue to associate with other white supremacists, he said. And not all racist group members start in prison gangs. Ideologies that start behind bars often spill out into the streets, and those with similar mindsets tend to stick together.
“White supremacists of different groups — or who aren’t members of any groups — may still hang out together,” Pitcavage said. “Simply because they share the same ideologies, and they share much of the same subculture.”
SUSPECTED GUNMAN KYLE BATT EXPRESSED RACIST IDEOLOGY DURING PREVIOUS ARREST
CANYON COUNTY — The shooting incident between Kyle Alan Batt, 27, and two Canyon County Sheriff’s Office deputies in October began as an altercation with a former girlfriend, not a race-related incident.
But records obtained from the Idaho Department of Correction regarding Batt’s 2007 malicious injury to property arrest paint a portrait of an impulsive man who may not always think about the consequences of his actions.
ideos taken via officers’ wearable video cameras show two Canyon County deputies who arrived at the home of Batt’s mother to investigate reports of shouting and the sound of items breaking. The officers talk briefly to Scott outside the Middleton apartment before proceeding inside, where they find Batt — visibly intoxicated, but otherwise cooperative — who had punched holes in the walls and broken at least two windows.
Upon learning that he was on probation in Boise County — and thus was prohibited from using alcohol — and that his mother was willing to sign a witness statement alleging malicious property damage, the deputies arrested Batt. And at that point, his cooperative tune changes.
He repeatedly shouts vulgarities at the deputies, calls them liars, and says he wants to fight them. He refers to the three deputies using racial slurs, although none of them are members of an ethnic minority.
“I don’t see a black person here,” one of the officers can be heard saying.
“Oh, oh, but I do,” Batt shouts back. “I see f---ing three of them.”
When one of the deputies asks Batt if he’s racist, he says he is, calling himself a “skinhead” and a “Nazi.”
Later in the video, Batt continues his tirade from the back of a patrol car as the deputies complete paperwork. At one point, he says he would “smoke” the deputy.
“Are you threatening me?” the officer asks.
“Yeah,” Batt says as he nods in a menacing manner.
“OK, I’ll remember that,” the deputy responds. “I’ll remember that when you go to court on that one, too.”
It’s unknown if Batt was directly involved with any racist groups or gangs. Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said Batt was not known to be a member of a threat group while in prison.
He had no tattoos while in prison, IDOC documents show. But in photos posted on Facebook, taken after his release, a shirtless man identified in comments as Batt has a prominent “white power” tattoo across his shoulders and chest. The profile where the photos were posted has since been removed from Facebook.
Ryan Batt, Kyle’s brother, told the Idaho Statesman last week that his brother is not a member of the Hammerskins and did not attend the group’s recent event in Melba, although a Nov. 5 blog post by the ADL suggests he has connections to the organization.
Ryan Batt said that his brother had long regretted his “white power” tattoo, and since the birth of his infant daughter had “tried to stay as far away from that crap as possible.”
— John Funk/IPT