Members of the “Grizzly Scouts” Allegedly Conspired to Obstruct Investigation and Proceedings Involving the Murder of a Federal Officer in Oakland, California
April 10, 2021 - SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury has indicted four members of a militia group associated with the “boogaloo” movement in connection with a scheme to obstruct justice and destroy records to thwart the investigation and proceedings involving the May 29, 2020 shooting of federal Protective Services Officers, announced Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of California Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair. The grand jury returned an indictment alleging that Jessie Alexander Rush, Robert Jesus Blancas, Simon Sage Ybarra, and Kenny Matthew Miksch, all members of a militia group, conspired to destroy communications and other records relating to the May 29, 2020 murder and attempted murder of two federal security officers in Oakland, California. The indictment charges Rush with an additional count of obstruction of official proceedings and Blancas with an additional count of destruction of records in official proceedings.
The indictment, filed March 23, 2021 and unsealed today, alleges that Rush, 29, a resident of Turlock, Calif.; Blancas, 33, a transient resident of the Bay Area; Ybarra, 23, a resident of Los Gatos; and Miksch, 21, a resident of San Lorenzo, were members of the “1st Detachment, 1st California Grizzly Scouts” (Grizzly Scouts), a militia group based in Northern California. Beginning in April 2020, the Grizzly Scouts connected via a Facebook group and periodically met in person for firearms training and other purposes. The Facebook group’s description stated, “they say the west won’t boog,” a reference to the “boogaloo” movement, and that “were [sic] here to gather like minded Californians who can network and establish local goon squads.” As alleged in the indictment, “boogaloo” is a term sometimes used by certain militia extremists to reference a politically motivated civil war or uprising against the government. The “boogaloo” is not a single cohesive group, but rather a loose concept that has become a rallying point for some extremists.
According to the indictment, at times, including on June 1, 2020, and June 2, 2020, members of the Grizzly Scouts, including Rush, Blancas, Ybarra, Miksch, and others, communicated with each other using a WhatsApp group in which discussions repeatedly referenced “boog” and tactics involving the killing of police officers and other law enforcement.
The indictment references the May 29, 2020 shootings at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Oakland, Calif. At about 9:44 p.m. that evening, a passenger inside of a white van opened fire and shot two federal Protective Security Officers (PSOs); one of the PSOs died of his gunshot wounds and the other sustained serious injuries that required surgery.
The indictment also references the June 6, 2020 shootings of deputies of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office. At about 2:00 p.m. that day, sheriff’s deputies responded to an address in Ben Lomond, Calif., associated with an abandoned white van. According to the indictment, a member of the Grizzly Scouts exchanged messages on the WhatsApp group with other Grizzly Scouts, in which that member allegedly told the group that he was preparing to engage in a shoot-out with law enforcement. The member allegedly asked the other Grizzly Scouts to come to his aid.
The indictment alleges Rush immediately instructed the Grizzly Scout member on the WhatsApp group to delete evidence on his phone. In addition, the indictment alleges that less than an hour after the shooting in Ben Lomond, Blancas deleted files related to the Grizzly Scouts from a Dropbox account. Further, within hours of the shooting, members of the Grizzly Scouts including Rush, Blancas, Ybarra, and Miksch allegedly began to reconnect on an alternative communications application. Moreover, the indictment alleges that the four defendants each deleted records of the WhatsApp group communications from their phones, including the prior discussions regarding violence against law enforcement.
Rush, Blancas, Ybarra, and Miksch are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by destroying records, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k), and the destruction of records in official proceedings, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1). Rush is charged with an additional count of obstruction of official proceedings, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), and Blancas is charged with an additional count of destruction of records in official proceedings, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1).
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of the conspiracy, obstruction, and destruction charges. In addition, the court may order additional terms of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Ybarra was arrested in the Eastern District of California and made his initial appearance there on April 8, 2021. He will appear for detention proceedings on April 9, 2021. Rush and Miksch appeared in federal court in San Francisco to make their initial appearances on April 9, 2021. Rush and Miksch are currently held in federal custody pending further proceedings and will appear next on April 14, 2021 for detention hearings before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley. Blancas will make his initial appearance in this matter on April 12, 2021. Federal authorities previously arrested Blancas on other charges and he is currently in federal custody pending further proceedings.
The prosecution is being handled by the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.