Posted: 5:42 PM- The first time Troy Kell killed a man, it had noth...">
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White supremacists find identity behind bars, common criminality on the outside
Utah's neo Nazi groups are recent phenomenon, may be tied to increased diversity in state prisons
By Matthew D. LaPlante
The Salt Lake Tribune
Published June 26, 2007 5:40 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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Posted: 5:42 PM- The first time Troy Kell killed a man, it had nothing to do with race.

Kell was just 18 years old when he helped kidnap and murder James Kelly - like Kell, a Caucasian - over a matter of $1,400.

The teenager soon found himself in a Utah prison. And there, for the first time, he found himself immersed in a culture every bit as violent as he was.

Eight years later, Kell killed again, stabbing a fellow inmate at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.

This time, race was everything.

Utah's history of hate crimes is dark and deep, but until the mid-1990s, law enforcement agents say, neo-Nazi groups such as the Aryan Empire Warriors were rare.

But law enforcement experts say something changed around the time Kell was sentenced in 1987: The prison population in Utah began to look more like prison populations nationwide, over-represented by racial and ethnic minorities. Black and Hispanic gangs, long prevalent in prisons elsewhere, began to take root in Utah's prisons.

Soon the white prisoners would respond. Among their ranks was Kell.

In 1994, prison security camera footage captured Kell stabbing black inmate Lonnie Blackmon 67 times, yelling "white power" while wiping Blackmon's blood from his hands as other inmates cheered.

Kell had bought into the extremist identity of the supremacist groups he found in prison.

"There is some tendency to affiliate with a gang while incarcerated," said Tom Patterson, director of the Utah Department of Corrections. "That's problematic. The idea is to have some one leave in better shape that when they came to you."

But that's not what was happening.

Soon after the Blackmon murder, police in Utah noticed an influx of organized white supremacist gangs taking root outside prison. While many members, like Kell, had ensured their continued incarceration with violent acts inside prison, others kept clean enough to win parole or reached the end of their sentences.

In subsequent years, hundreds of prisoners identified as white supremacists were released to halfway houses and parole offices in Salt Lake and Weber counties. Many brought their allegiances - and criminal proclivities - with them.

Among their ranks, for short periods between prison stints, was Curtis Michael Allgier, who first went to prison in 2001 for burglary, forgery and theft. During his incarceration, officials say Allgier linked up with white supremacists, adopted their hateful ideology and covered his face and body in neo-Nazi tattoos.

In 1995, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups nationwide, was monitoring one hate group in Utah, the Aryan Nations in Salt Lake City. By the end of the decade, the center was watching six such organizations - most of which had roots or branches inside Utah's prisons.

"It used to be that in the '70s, the '80s and the '90s, that the vast majority of prison gang activities took place within the confines of the prison system," said Anti-Defamation League researcher Mark Pitcavage. "That is no longer the case."

Pitcavage and other experts said that, once on the outside, supremacists are not only committed to white-power politics but also - and sometimes more so - to larceny, drug trafficking, identity theft and fraud.

And like in other gangs, apolitical allegiances to fellow members run deep.

Investigators say that's why, after fellow supremacist William G. Maw was shot and killed by Ogden Police officers on May 27, 2006, Allgier reportedly made a pledge to come after them.

"He wasn't making any bones about the fact that... he wanted to kill a police officer," said Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner. "He'd like to see one of us die."

On Monday, Allgier allegedly overpowered and shot to death Stephen Anderson, a 60-year-old corrections officer during a medical visit at University Hospital.

Allgier - who as an alleged member of the Aryan Empire Warriors professed belief in the formation of a white, Christian nation - allegedly killed a white, Christian father of five children who was not affiliated with Ogden police.

"There was no reason for it," lamented prison warden Steve Turley.

mlaplante@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">mlaplante@sltrib.com



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