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Armed men arrested after traveling to Kenosha to ‘see for themselves,’ FBI says

A screenshot of an image Michael Karmo allegedly sent before his arrest in this case. [US Attorney's Office/TNS)
September 05, 2020

Two men from Hartville have been arrested on illegal gun possession charges after the FBI says they traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin to check on the civil unrest there.

Michael Karmo, 40, and Cody Smith, 33, were charged with federal crimes in the Eastern District of Wisconsin after authorities say they found an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, two handguns, a silencer, ammo, body armor and a drone in the Hartville men’s vehicle and hotel room.

The feds say Karmo and Smith were both prohibited from possessing firearms because of prior arrests — Karmo with multiple felony convictions and Smith with a misdemeanor domestic abuse case.

Kenosha has been in the national spotlight over the last two weeks after video circulated of police there shooting a Black man named Jacob Blake in the back several times.

The shooting temporarily halted the NBA playoffs and led to protests in the Kenosha streets. During one of the nights of civil unrest, police say Kyle Rittenhouse — a 17-year-old who traveled to Kenosha from Illinois — shot three people, two of them fatally.

The governor declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard was sent to Kenosha where several businesses were also damaged.

According to a criminal complaint filed against Karmo and Smith, the two men traveled from their home in southwest Missouri to Wisconsin earlier this week, stopping in Iowa along the way.

The complaint says someone the men interacted with in Iowa sent a tip to law enforcement that Karmo and Smith were headed to Kenosha with intentions to loot and there was also mention of “picking people off,” although neither suspect had claimed they would personally do that.

The tipster was reportedly concerned about Karmo’s proclivity for guns and increased interest in conspiracy theories.

The complaint says the FBI used cellphone data to track Karmo and Smith and arrest them Tuesday outside of a hotel in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (near Kenosha). It’s in that hotel room and the suspects’ vehicle that authorities say they found the guns and a small bag of marijuana.

In an interview with law enforcement, both men said they attended President Trump’s appearance in Kenosha on Tuesday.

Karmo allegedly said the purpose of their trip to Kenosha was to “see for themselves” what was going on regarding rioting. He said they did not intend on shooting anyone and the guns were for protection, although Karmo also said none of the guns belonged to him, according to the complaint.

Karmo allegedly told law enforcement that he and Smith planned on traveling to Portland, Oregon after leaving Wisconsin so they could check out the civil unrest there.

Karmo told law enforcement that he and Smith were members of the 417 Second Amendment Militia, and he would be willing to “take action” if police were defunded.

Online records indicate neither Karmo nor Smith have attorneys listed for this case. They are scheduled to appear in court by video this coming Tuesday.


© 2020 Columbia Daily Tribune