Florida Sheriff Goes Nuclear on Neo-Nazi ‘Motherf*ckers’

Florida Sheriff Goes Nuclear on Neo-Nazi ‘Motherf*ckers’

Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood fumed that it was an “honor” to be included on the “hit list” of an organization behind a string of disturbing antisemitic incidents.

A week after a neo-Nazi hate group circulated throughout the Daytona Beach, Florida area displaying and distributing extremist propaganda, the county’s top cop has had enough.

“These scumbags came to the wrong county… We are not going to tolerate this,” a seething Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood said at a press conference on Monday. “This is not about free speech. This is about violence.”

Chitwood identified the Goyim Defense League (GDL) as the organization behind the disturbing behavior, which included leaving antisemitic flyers on people’s doorsteps and hanging anti-Jewish banners from busy pedestrian bridges during Daytona 500 weekend. On Feb. 17, the GDL held a demonstration outside Chabad of South Orlando, harassing pedestrians and motorists, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The next day, members hung signs at the Daytona International Speedway with sayings such as, “Henry Ford was right about the Jews.” They later projected antisemitic slogans on the outside of the track, with one reading, “Hitler was right.”

Chitwood on Monday named GDL head Jon Minadeo as the ringleader, and noted he recently moved from his home state of California after his grandmother’s restaurant was almost run out of business due to his bigoted activities. The GDL was behind a swastika burning near Austin, Texas in 2021, just hours after a local synagogue was firebombed. (In a previous interview with The Daily Beast, Minadeo denied having any affiliation with the suspect in that case, insisting that the GDL, which is classified as a hate group by the ADL, has “never, ever done anything violent towards Jews.”)

Chitwood, who did not hide his rage, said a group of GDL members from various states had spent last weekend traveling up and down Daytona’s International Speedway Boulevard while thousands of fans were in town for the races, “yelling obscenities” from the back of a rented U-Haul truck. He said he didn’t “see anything where these people can say this is First Amendment [protected speech]. This is nothing but pure, pure, pure evil.”

Chitwood ran through a laundry list of arrests and charges the 15 or so GDLers seen in town had on their records.

“Let’s take a look at these cowardly scumbags,” he said, before walking reporters through a rogue’s gallery of those suspected to have been involved. Their rap sheets included stalking, threatening a public official, aggravated assault, murder, terroristic threats, vandalism for defacing a memorial for victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre, and soliciting a 14 year-old for sex.

Chitwood then told those gathered before him that a lot of people in the room—including himself—as well as Jews around the country, were on the GDL’s “hit list.”

Chitwood called it a “badge of honor,” daring the GDL to come and “put a bullet in the back of my head.”

“That’s my message to you: go for it,” he said. “You want to try to get into my computer and plant child porn in there with a group of people that have an IQ of 12? Go for it. I challenge you to go for it. You want to put surveillance on me 24 hours [a day]? Go for it. And the best of all: you’re going to dox me and make me unelectable? Go for it. You came to the wrong county. I stand with my Jewish friends and I’m honored to be on your hit list. It’s an honor to be sought after by a bunch of punk thugs like you.”

The biggest concern, according to Chitwood, is that a group like the GDL will radicalize “the next active shooter.”

“I don’t think they’ve got the guts to pull the trigger themselves, but they know there’s somebody out there that will do their bidding,” he said.

Chitwood began his career as a cop in Philadelphia. A decade-and-a-half later, he was appointed chief of the Shawnee Police Department in Oklahoma. He then served as chief of the Daytona Beach PD for 10 years before being elected sheriff of Volusia County.

In an interview with The Daily Beast following Monday’s press conference, Chitwood had one thing to say to Minadeo and his group, calling their beliefs “grotesque.”

“Excuse my French, but fuck you, motherfucker,” he said.

Chitwood recalled “a real, palpable fear amongst the Jewish community when these guys came into town.” He said he was spurred to action by a sense of rage that virulent antisemites would feel free to use his jurisdiction as a backdrop for their bigotry. He said he was “tired of holding community meetings, you know, we’ll all hold hands and pray.”

“No, this is beyond that,” Chitwood said. “…I had to get out there and be as forceful as I could, to emphasize: You came to the wrong place.”

Chitwood pointed out that days after the speedway incident, a California man reportedly inspired by the GDL shot two Orthodox Jews outside a synagogue in Los Angeles. He vowed to “stamp out” extremism however he could, saying, “If you stand by and you don’t do anything, the violence and the intimidation win.”