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Alliance man facing federal charges for firebombing church in Chesterland, authorities say

DOJ says he is affiliated with 'White Lives Matter Ohio'
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Posted at 4:16 PM, Mar 31, 2023

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced charges against a 20-year-old man from Alliance for allegedly using Molotov cocktails to try and burn a Chesterland church to the ground.

According to authorities, Aimenn D. Penny has been charged with malicious use of explosive material (arson) and possession of a destructive device. He was arrested following an investigation conducted by the Cleveland Division of the FBI and the Chester Township Police Department.

Penny is accused of going to the Community Church of Chesterland on March 25 and lobbing Molotov cocktails at the building in an attempt to burn it to the ground, authorities said.

A Molotov cocktail damaged one of the church's signs and left scorch marks on the building's exterior. The church was unoccupied at the time of the attack, and no one was injured.

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Image of the device allegedly used by Aimenn Penny to damage a Geauga County church. News 5 background.

The Church had previously announced plans to host a "Drag Queen Story Time" event on Saturday— something the Chester Township Police Department has since advised against due to threats of potential violence. The church said it would move forward with the event as it is "confident" in its security plan.

RELATED: Chesterland Township Police ask church to cancel 'Drag Queen Story Time'; church plans to still hold event

Church says drag queen event still happening after police call for canceling it

News 5 has reached out to the DOJ to determine if Penny has connections to any hate groups. The DOJ said he is affiliated with "White Lives Matter Ohio."

When asked whether the incident will be charged as a hate crime, DOJ representatives said they cannot comment on the investigation.

If convicted of the charges, Penny could get up to 20 years in prison for using explosive materials and up to 10 years for possessing a destructive device.

“Violence and destruction are never an acceptable way to express a disagreement with a particular viewpoint,” said Michelle M. Baeppler, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “While, as Americans, we enjoy the right to disagree, doing so peacefully is the only appropriate option. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio remains committed to protecting the rights of all citizens to express their viewpoints peacefully.”

The National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section will be prosecuting the case in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

White Lives Matter affiliation

According to a complaint filed in federal court, White Lives Matter Ohio is a group with "racist, pro-Nazi and homophobic views."

Authorities say that on March 11, Penny went to Wadsworth to distribute propaganda flyers at a drag queen event. He was identified as a protester at the event by Wadsworth Police.

He was dressed in "military-style gear" which included camouflage pants, a tactical vest, and a jacket with a patch showing a firearm on it, the complaint stated.

Last year on Oct. 11, Penny was also seen placing flyers on Alliance Police Department vehicles and in other parts of the city. The complaint states Penny was passing out the flyers "in an effort to spread the 'word.'"

Furthermore, Penny expressed views to police that Black people were the "problem" and he wanted to "educate everyone about their violence toward white Americans." the complaint stated.

Some of the other beliefs Penny expressed, according to the complaint, include the following:

  • Penny stated that he believed African Americans were solely responsible for the high crime rate across the country.
  • Penny further made it clear that he believes - and looks forward to - the civil war coming between races.
  • Penny expressed his belief that the United States will not prosper until all the other races, or “weaknesses” as he called them, are gone.

RELATED: Chesterland church planning to host 'Drag Queen Story Hour' vandalized

You can watch News 5's previous coverage of Chesterland church in the player below:

Church planning to host 'Drag Queen Story Hour' vandalized

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