ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Two Sioux Falls men among 31 arrested with riot gear, smoke grenade near Pride event in northern Idaho

Though the booking process is not yet complete, two South Dakotans have been identified as suspects in a conspiracy to riot near a Pride gathering in Idaho.

3479297+crime3_81.jpg
We are part of The Trust Project.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Two Sioux Falls men were among 31 people arrested Saturday in Idaho after they were allegedly found in a U-Haul with riot gear and 29 others who planned to riot near a local Pride event.

James Michael Johnson, 40, and Derek Joseph Smith, 24, both of Sioux Falls, were arrested and charged with criminal conspiracy, according to public arrest records.

Shortly before 1:40 p.m. local time on Saturday, authorities in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, received a tip from a concerned citizen who reported seeing a “little army” of roughly 20 people pile into a U-Haul wearing masks and carrying shields at a hotel. Less than 10 minutes after receiving the tip, authorities were able to catch up with and stop the truck before it arrived at its destination.

According to Coeur D’Alene Police Chief Lee White, the truck contained 31 individuals, including Johnson and Smith, in similar attire. The group, which was in possession of “riot gear” — including masks, shields, hats lined with plastic and at least one smoke grenade — appeared to be affiliated with Patriot Front, a group widely referred to as white nationalist or white supremacy hate group.

Stopped roughly one quarter-mile north of a Pride event, police say the riot gear they found as well as paperwork that was discovered during the arrests make it clear the group came to Idaho to riot.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It is clear to us, based on the gear the individuals had with them, with the stuff they had in their possession and the U-Haul with them, along with the paperwork we seized with them, that they came to riot downtown,” White said in a Saturday press conference.

Farther down the road, the Panhandle Patriots, a group of motorcyclists who "love our Constitution," were also meeting at a separate park.

Of the 31 arrested, only one was from Idaho. Other suspects hail from Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming and Washington. Johnson and Smith were the only South Dakotans arrested in the alleged conspiracy, thus far. Booking does not yet appear to be complete.

“Officers are going to be, over the course of the next several days, still booking evidence, including the shields and riot gear and things of that nature, that were taken from these individuals,” White said. “At this point, each of the 31 have only been charged with [criminal] conspiracy. … I’m not sure if other charges will be filed.”

White added that he, personally, didn’t see any firearms involved in the stop, though he wasn’t sure if other officers had located any.

“In my opinion, I would gladly arrest 31 individuals who are coming to riot in our city for a misdemeanor, rather than have them participate in some sort of seriously disruptive event which is exactly what they were planning in the downtown area,” White said.

As of 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, the most recent update available on the Kootenai County Jail's website, both Johnson and Smith remained in jail on a $300 bond.

The two South Dakotans and 29 other alleged co-conspirators could appear in a Kootenai County courtroom as early as Monday, though the number of those involved could cause delays in court appearances.

ADVERTISEMENT

Under Idaho law, a class of offense is not explicitly prescribed for criminal conspiracy. However, charged as a misdemeanor, Johnson and Smith face up to six months in a county jail plus fines of up to $1,000.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTSSIOUX FALLS
A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
What to read next
West River professor, students study how gratitude affects pain in physical therapy patients
Members Only
Although Mitchell's sales tax increases are perplexing as the nation saw inflation rise as high as 9.1% this year - a jump that hasn’t been seen since 1981 - City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein said the city’s ability to collect remote sellers tax has been pivotal for Mitchell.
58-year-old Donald Letcher was sentenced on Nov. 23 to 25 days in jail, as well as a 30-day license suspension and two years of probation, after pleading guilty to charges relating to the hit-and-run of a 6-year-old girl.
Exceptions allowed under certain circumstances, emergency management director says