Man suspected in threatening phone calls

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A still photo from Sandpoint Police body camera footage, Scott Rhodes, left, was trespassed from Lake Pend Oreille School District properties by SPD officers on Dec. 1 after being identified as a person of interest in the distribution of racist CDs at Sandpoint High School.

SANDPOINT — The man implicated in the distribution of racist propaganda at Sandpoint High School in November is also suspected of placing threatening phone calls to city officials in Alexandria, Va.

According to a Sandpoint Police report obtained through a public records request, Scott Rhodes was identified by an Alexandria investigator after tracing the phone number used to American Discovery Publishing. When he called the number, he received a recording indicating he had reached the desk of Scott Rhodes, according to the Dec. 26 report by Sandpoint Det. Eric Ryan.

According to bizapedia.com, Scott Rhodes from Sandpoint is a registered agent for the California-based publishing company.

The phone call made from the associated number was a recording in German, according to the report, and was later determined to be a recording of Adolf Hitler.

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad and other community members have been the targets of racist flyers circulating the area over the past year. In the most recent incident, racist CDs were placed on the windshields of 56 vehicles in the SHS parking lot on Nov. 30. Sandpoint officers identified the person of interest as Rhodes, and per request of LPOSD Superintendent Shawn Woodward, trespassed Rhodes from all LPOSD properties for one year.

Dec. 1 body camera footage, also obtained through a public records request, School Resource Officer Spencer Smith and Det. Mike Aerni confronted Rhodes in his Sandpoint office to inform him of the trespass. In the video and police report, officers also confirm Rhodes is a person of interest in the rash of hate flyers being distributed.

When confronting Rhodes, Smith informed him they had him on video, driving his red Jeep into the parking lot, getting out and distributing the CDs.

“I don’t think you do,” Rhodes said in reply. “... I’d be happy to take your number and have my attorney call you.”

Aerni told Rhodes they know he has been distributing flyers as well, and that there is nothing criminal in the distribution of such materials. Rhodes denied any knowledge of the flyers.

“We know that it is you,” Aerni said. “We know you’ve been handing out the flyers, putting them on lawns. We know you went to the school; we’ve got you on video.”

See the full body camera footage on the Daily Bee YouTube channel at youtu.be/jlGzGVZxtvA.

Rhodes was not in his office Tuesday when the Daily Bee stopped to inquire whether he would like to comment.

Alexandria residents were also bombarded with racist flyers at the end of May 2017, according to subsequent news articles. In his report, Ryan said he received emails from Alexandria Sgt. Wil Salas containing several anti-semitic/nuclear weapon flyers and a handwritten note.

Ryan noted that the handwriting of the note was not similar to the handwriting on the envelopes addressed to Lee Hardin, a local businessman who has been the direct target of racial slurs and hate mail. Hardin told Ryan he was called a racial slur a few month ago, and when shown a photo of Rhodes, said he was 95-percent sure it was the same man.

According to the report, Hardin told Ryan he has lived in Sandpoint for 10 years and has not had a problem with being called racial slurs until recently.

The CDs distributed at SHS point to redice.tv, which, according to Wikipedia, covers a "wide variety of content, including white nationalism, anti-semitic conspiracy theories, paranormal topics and philosophy." The source of some of the flyers appears to be The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi and white supremacist news and commentary website.

“The real problem that we are here to address is an underlying fear of difference," Rognstad said during a September press conference. “It is a fear that divides us our community along racial, gender, religious and ethnic lines.”

Lynn Bridges of the human rights task force said that message of hatred and racial inequality is a far cry from what the community represents.

“We believe in working for a community where everyone feels safe and where every person is treated with dignity and respect, and where they enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to them by the founding documents of our country,” Bridges said.

In Alexandria, the flyers originate from Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that makes the material available for download on its website, bloodandsoil.org, according to a June 1 article in the Alexandria Times. The flyers came a week after an altercation between Richard Spencer, who runs the website AltRight.com and has offices at 1001 King St., Alexandria, and Fair at the Old Town location of Sport and Health became national news, the article states. According to the article, many were quick to note the connection, though neither Spencer nor his website took ownership of the action. It’s unclear if there’s any affiliation between Vanguard America and Spencer.

In a May 28 statement, Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg said the flyers found in the Del Ray neighborhood of the city “are horrible and reflect a new low in ignorance.” She denounced hate speech, hate crimes and discrimination “in all forms.”

“Alexandria is a city of kindness and compassion,” she said. “We are a city that is inclusive, accepting, and embracing. Diversity is a core value here. We as a community are far stronger than a few flyers, and we will remain steadfast in our commitment to these values which we hold so dear … As hate speech and acts against humanity shock all Americans around the nation, all of us have a role to play as we state unequivocally that such acts do not reflect the values of our beloved community and nation.”

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.com.

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