CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - A U.S. citizen has been charged in Arizona over online comments that allegedly incited what police describe as a "religiously motivated terrorist attack" in Australia a year ago in which six people died, officials said Wednesday.
Queensland state police officers Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold and innocent bystander Alan Dare were fatally shot by Gareth Train, his brother Nathaniel Train and Nathanial’s wife Stacey Train in an ambush at the Trains’ remote property in the rural community of Wieambilla last Dec. 12, investigators say.
FBI agents arrested a 58-year-old man near Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, last week on a U.S. charge that alleged he incited the violence through comments posted online last December, Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon said at a joint news conference in Brisbane with FBI legal attaché for Australia, Nitiana Mann.
"We know that the offenders executed a religiously motivated terrorist attack in Queensland," Scanlon said, referring to the Trains. "They were motivated by a Christian extremist ideology."
The FBI is still investigating the alleged motive of the American. Queensland police had flown to Arizona to help investigators there.
"The attack involved advanced planning and preparation against law enforcement," Scanlon said.
Gareth Train began following the suspect on YouTube in May 2020. A year later, they were communicating directly.
"The man repeatedly sent messages containing Christian end-of-days ideology to Gareth and then later to Stacey," Scanlon said.
Mann said the FBI was committed to assisting the Queensland Police Service in its investigation.
"The FBI has a long memory and an even longer reach. From Queensland, Australia, to the remote corners of Arizona," Mann said.
"The FBI and QPS worked jointly and endlessly to bring this man to justice, and he will face the crimes he is alleged to have perpetrated," she added.
Court documents reveal additional details
While police did not release the suspect's name, court documents we obtained identified the suspect as Donald Day.
Day, according to the documents, lives in the Heber-Overgaard area, and was active on both YouTube and BitChute, under different usernames.
"Beginning on or before January 2022 and continuing to on or after February 2023, Day engaged in a court of conduct demonstrating a desire to incite violence and threaten a variety of groups and individuals including law enforcement and government authorities," read a portion of the court documents.
Day, according to the indictment, posted comments and video that were sympathetic to the shooters on social media.
"Although I cannot be there under my own power and will, the comfort and assurance that I can offer is that our enemies will become afraid of us," read a portion of a comment that was allegedly posted by Day on a video uploaded by Nathaniel and Stacey.
While the indictment only identified the Trains as Individuals 1, 2, and 3, other portions of the document identified Individual 1 and 2 as a married couple killed in a shootout with Australian police, and Individual 3 as Individual 1's brother. The indictment also states that Nathaniel and Stacey often referred to themselves on YouTube as "Daniel" and "Jane."
In the indictment, Day is accused of two counts of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce. Under Count 1, Day is accused of threatening to injure any law enforcement officials who come to his home, in a video that was posted to YouTube on or around Dec. 16, 2022.
"The devils come for us, they [expletive] die. It's just that simple. We are free people, We are owned by no one," Day allegedly stated in the video.
Under Count 2, Day is accused of threatening to injure another person in or around February 2023. While the victim was only identified as "T. G.," the victim was listed as the Director General of the World Health Organization in the indictment. The current head of the WHO is Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.
The threat, investigators say, came in the form of a comment of a video posted to BitChute, where Day alleged stated it is time to "kill these monsters, and any who serve them."
"Where are my kind? Where are you? Am I the only one? [Expletive]!" a portion of the comment allegedly written by Day reads.
Day was remanded in custody when he appeared in an Arizona court on Tuesday. He faces a potential five-year prison sentence if convicted.
In their report, the Australian Associated Press stated that while there are no extradition orders for Day (who was not identified by name in the article), Queensland Police officials say it was "early days.:
What happened during the terror attack?
The indictment we obtained listed a timeline of sorts for the terror incident.
In the documents, investigators said four Queensland Police Service officers visited Nathaniel and Stacey's property in an attempt to locate Gareth on Dec. 12, 2022.
Gareth, as stated in the court documents, was reported as missing by his wife several months prior to the incident.
"When the QPS officers walked towards [Nathaniel and Stacey]'s residence, [Nathaniel and Stacey] opened fire, killing two QPS officers and wounding a third officer. When a neighbor came to investigate, he was also killed by [Nathaniel and Stacey]," read a portion of the documents.
Police later killed the three Trains, who have been described as conspiracy theorists, during a six-hour siege. According to the Australian Associated Press, the shootings were described as Australia's first domestic terror attack.
Reports by the BBC in the United Kingdom state that the Trains subscribed to "a broad Christian fundamentalist belief system known as premillennialism," citing a Queensland Police deputy commissioner. In a separate report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, an Australian far-right and religious extremism expert stated there was "certainly a renewed momentum" in the ideology due to the convenience of a number of events.
The expert also said, in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation article, there was always "potential for terrorism across the religious and political spectrum".