TEXARKANA, Texas — A Hooks, Texas, man suspected of being loyal to anti-government extremist group "Boogaloo Bois" pleaded not guilty Tuesday to attempted capital murder of a peace officer and other crimes at a hearing in Bowie County.
Aaron Caleb Swenson, 36, is accused of streaming on Facebook Live as he drove the streets of Texarkana, Texas, on a Saturday night in mid-April searching for a police officer to kill, according to a probable cause affidavit. Swenson appeared Tuesday for arraignment before 102nd District Judge Jeff Addison via video on charges of attempted capital murder, attempted murder and terroristic threatening. Swenson's indictment for terroristic threatening includes an enhancement under the Texas Hate Crimes Act.
Assistant Bowie County Public Defender Deborah Moore entered pleas of not guilty to all charges. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp said the state wants a jury trial and doesn't plan to extend a plea offer to Swenson.
Addison scheduled the case for jury selection Jan. 12.
Swenson had been the subject of a federal warning notice to area law enforcement months before he allegedly armed himself, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and body armor and began "hunting the hunters," Crisp said last month at a bond hearing.
Local 911 dispatchers received multiple calls alerting police to the live stream on April 11. Officers searching for Swenson could hear him say he was looking for "red and blue lights" and that he spoke of "finding his prey" as he passed a patrol car on an Interstate 30 access road.
An officer watching the live feed quickly identified the possible make and model of a late Chevy or GMC pickup by the appearance of an image of the vehicle's dashboard on the Facebook Live stream. As Texarkana, Texas, police closed in, Swenson allegedly led them on a high-speed chase. A spike strip was used on Leary Road to deflate one of Swenson's tires but he allegedly continued driving west on U.S. Highway 82 for several miles before finally coming to a stop and placing his hands on the roof of his truck.
"Officers began conducting a felony traffic stop but Swenson would not turn his music down or listen to the verbal commands," the affidavit states. "After approximately 20 minutes of giving verbal commands Swenson decided to step out of the vehicle."
Crisp said at the hearing last month that the FBI has contacted her office to brief local prosecutors about Swenson's alleged ties to the Boogaloo movement. Authorities have linked members of the movement to disruptions of peaceful protests and the killing last month of law enforcement officers in California, according to Wikipedia.
If convicted of attempted capital murder of a peace officer, Swenson faces five to 99 years or life in prison. Attempted murder, a lesser offense included in Swenson's indictment, is punishable by two to 20 years. Terroristic threatening is typically punishable by two to 10 years in prison though Swenson could face an increased punishment range of up to 20 years because of the hate crime enhancement.