AUSTIN (KXAN) – Days after state and federal authorities charged three people in the May 31 looting of the Capital Plaza Target store, a group law enforcement claimed the three belonged to has responded.
On June 6, the day of the arrests, KXAN emailed the Defend Our Hoodz group asking whether Skye Elder, Samuel Miller and Lisa Hogan were members of DOH. A press release issued the day of the arrests described the three as being part of an “anti-government” group in Austin.
KXAN received an emailed response from the email address posted on the DOH Facebook page on June 10. The response refuted law enforcement’s claims members of the DOH group were arrested in the looting case.
Defend Our Hoodz stands in solidarity with all protesters who have been arrested while demanding justice for Mike Ramos and George Floyd. 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.”Defend Our Hoodz
The statement did not include the name of the person making the statement or who authored the email.
DOH’s response stated the group supports “…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.”
The DOH response mentioned Mike Ramos’s death — who died at the hands of Austin police in April — saying Ramos “was murdered” in the east Austin area where the group organizes. “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,” the emailed statement said.
The Ramos shooting death is still under investigation and the officer who shot Ramos is on leave pending the conclusion of the investigation.
Austin police, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were each credited with the arrest and investigation of the three Target looting suspects in the June 6 press release. That release descrived all three as members of an “anti-government group.” The officer who swore one of the warrants out on Elder wrote in his report that she was “known ANTIFA member.”
The officer did not detail any examples of why APD considered Elder part of ANTIFA-type groups, but the charging documents reported that Elder was involved in some capacity in a separate investigation. The court records offered no other information on that separate investigation.
The only other charges we could find connected to either of the three were two misdemeanor counts of obstructing a highway. Travis County court records show APD officers arrested both Elder and Miller on March 8 after the officers “responded to a large group walking in the roadway” in the 1500 block of Montopolis Drive near the Montopolis Neighborhood Center.
APD reported giving the group “multiple commands” to get out of the road and use the sidewalk, but the group “refused to obey the lawful commands and continued to walk in the middle of the road,” according to court records. The group had the entire southbound lanes of Montopolis Drive blocked, APD reported.
Both Miller and Elder were given $500 bonds and the court docket shows the charges are still pending. Elder has an attorney, according to the court docket and KXAN has sent a message requesting comment.
On June 6, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office told KXAN all three people charged in the Target looting case were members of DOH. The Target event was advertised as a Facebook event on the Mike Ramos Brigade’s page.
The Mike Ramos Brigade is an anonymous account. The MRB group held a June 1 meeting in a city park where one of two speakers who identified themselves as leaders of the group called the MRB a “militant organization” that condoned riots as a way to further its messaging.
At a press conference one week ago, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw told reporters that state and federal agents has gone undercover and “embedded” with some of the organized groups connected to rioting and looting across Texas.
McCraw, mentioning the May 31 Target looting case, said agents identified some members of ANTIFA-type groups who were involved in violence during the protests around Texas. McCraw described the members as “violent extremists.’
McCraw also said agents had “a list” of names of people suspected as committing crimes during the protests, but would not release the names at that time.
Then, four days later, the announcement of Elder, Miller and Hogan’s criminal charges was made public.
Rioting, looting in Austin
Before rioters 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 happening.
It didn’t take much law enforcement intelligence work to find out about the planned gathering at the Target store. The MRB Facebook page publicly advertised the event long before it ever happened.
Despite law enforcement’s estimate that up to 30 people were involved in the Target looting, investigators have charged only three people in the case to date.
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 spotted Elder walking through a parking lot toward the Target store about 15 minutes before the planned event. Investigators said they were able to “positively identify” Elder because she was not wearing a mask at the time.
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.”
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 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.