‘Known ANTIFA’ group member nabbed in Austin Target looting investigation

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Members of Austin police’s Special Response Team line the front of the Captial Plaza Target store after two dozen looters made off with $10,000 in stolen merchandise on May 31, 2020. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Before the first rioter ever made it through the front doors of the Capital Plaza Target store in central Austin, undercover agents were watching the store. Agents with the Austin Police Department’s Strategic Intelligence Unit knew there was a good chance of a riot.

The unit knew something was already planned at the store. An event posted to the Mike Ramos Brigade’s Facebook page asked for people to show up to the Target on May 31 at 6 p.m.

Just before 6 p.m., undercover agents reported seeing Skye Elder, who a charging document described as a “known ANTIFA member,” walking through a parking lot toward Target.

Skye Elder, Samuel Miller and Lisa Hogan (APD)

Elder was one of three arrested over the weekend, charged with the riots and looting of the store on May 31. State law enforcers said last week that they’d identified some members of ANTIFA-type groups, who Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw described as “violent extremists.’

Austin police, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the arrests of Elder, Lisa Hogan and Samuel Miller. The announcement described the three as members of an “anti-government group.”

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to KXAN that all three are members of a group known as Defend Our Hoodz, a group investigators called “anti-government.” The group is based in Austin and its Facebook page shows its mission is to “fight displacement and exploitative development.”

We must work together to resist the forces that are turning Austin into a city that bulldozes over those without wealth and access to power, and pushes them further and further out. We can create our own power.

It’s time to come together and take a stand. We can no longer afford to wait for the same politics and corrupt processes to come to our rescue – we have to build and fight together.

Defend Our Hoodz Facebook Page

KXAN sent multiple messages to Defend Our Hoodz, and it responded June 9, denying that Elder, Hogan and Miller were part of its group.

“Defend Our Hoodz stands in solidarity with all protesters who have been arrested while demanding justice for Mike Ramos and George Floyd,” it wrote. “Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and an APD investigator have claimed that 3 people arrested for a protest at Target in solidarity with the Minneapolis protests are members of DOH. This is false. No DOH members have been arrested during the weeks of protests. However, we support people’s rebellion and encourage supporters to donate generously to legal funds for those arrested and medical funds for those injured by police during the protests. Mike Ramos was murdered in Riverside where we’ve been organizing for years. We want to see justice served and stand resolutely with those who police are targeting in an attempt to quell the justified rebellion of the people of Austin.”

Elder is charged with one count of burglary, a felony. Hogan faces a charge of rioting and a charge of burglary. Miller is charged with two counts of criminal mischief and one count of burglary. Each of the charges stem from the May 31 Target looting.

Investigators wrote in court documents that they were able to “positively identify” Elder as she walked through a parking lot near the Target around 5:45 p.m. Since Elder was not wearing a mask, the agent wrote that he was able to clearly recognize Elder from a separate investigation.

Hogan was running a Facebook live stream of the event, which investigators wrote in court records they were watching as it happened. The live stream was carried on the Mike Ramos Brigade Facebook page, according to APD. Hogan invited several people down to the Target store to participate, “even if you don’t want to loot,” an investigator quoted Hogan as stating in the live stream.

During the event, which Austin police described as a riot, a vehicle pulled up to the Target and agents reported seeing Miller climb out. Agents reported that Miller “ripped” the camera system off the outside wall of the store.

At the same time, several people in the group started to rip the plywood off the doors and smash through a glass door and got inside, according to charging documents.

Other members of the riot held up a sheet over the front of the store “to conceal the nefarious activity” happening at the front doors of the store, court records show.

Investigators estimated between 20 to 30 people were in the group, which “several” were identified by APD as belonging to the Austin Red Guards, a group described by APD as “a self-identified communist/socialist ANTIFA group,” according to court records.

A KXAN investigation into the Austin Red Guards last week found the group supposedly disbanded in December 2018, according to its Facebook page. A Dec. 17, 2018 post published on the Red Guards Austin account stated, “This project has reached its conclusion, we are no more.”

This Facebook post from Dec. 17, 2018 shows the Austin Red Guards disbanded. (KXAN Photo)

APD’s Special Response Team was already aboard a city bus and arrived at the Target store sometime after the looting started. Officers reported finding shopping carts lined up outside the front door of the store; staged in such a way to slow down law enforcement’s response to the looting.

The looting caused $11,000 in damage to the building and security camera system and the looting caused Target to lose another $10,000 in theft, according to court records filed Monday.

Bonds for Elder, Miller and Hogan are set at $25,000 each. Miller is also ordered to house arrest with electronic monitoring, according to court records. The bond conditions also banned any of the three to contact one another.

However, court records show an exemption from that ban for Miller and Elder as the two live together in Austin.

All three have court dates set for July 9 in Travis County.

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