KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Hate group experts say dissidents, ex-members and lone-wolf actors pose the greatest threat to public safety from a hate group community that has grown nationally in recent years.
Law enforcement officials believe the white supremacist known as Glenn Miller who has been accused of murdering three people outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan., acted alone.
Miller had longstanding ties to KKK and paramilitary white supremacist groups for two decades, but may have fallen out with the groups after testifying against several other members to receive a reduced jail sentence.
Experts from the FBI, federal prosecutors office and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies hate groups, all say acts of violence from former members or splinter groups is far more common than from the “official” groups themselves.
“What we see often is that they are in these movements and you get these few radicals. And they say, 'Let's do this. Let's do that,' and the group's not supporting the very violent conduct,” Former FBI agent Michael Tabman told 41 Action News. “That's when they break off and start taking matters into [their] own hands.”
Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the SPLC agreed.
"They get frustrated. Their leaders are always predicting a race war and it never starts," he said.
“We rarely see an entire sect of a white supremacist group go out and commit an atrocity,” Tabman said.
Part of that is operational. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies can infiltrate potentially dangerous groups and target them with anti-conspiracy efforts or other roundabout methods of shutting them down before they act out. People talk. A lone wolf may be less-likely to reveal his plans.
Some white supremacist groups, seeking an air of legitimacy, say they remove members who might be violent or unstable.
“None of our members have ever went out and done anything like this at all,” Frank Ancona said, the “Imperial Wizard” of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, one of 23 hate groups counted by the SPLC in Missouri. “And of course they would be thrown out immediately if they even had those types of thoughts in their mind.”
While the SPLC says hate groups appear to have declined slightly in the next year, they have grown exponentially since the election of the first African American president in 2008-– seen as a watershed moment by white supremacists.
The SPLC estimates KKK membership to be somewhere between six and seven thousand people nationwide, but says the number of hate and militia groups combined could be 2,000 or more. Any number of them could be turning out the next disaffected lone wolf with a weapon and the will to commit violence.
“Sad to say, pretty much every state in this country is infected with this virus,” Potok said. “And there are really no signs we're going to see any end to this any time soon.”