The Case of Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman
At their rural Tennessee family home, Clark and Judy Cowart heard a knock at the door. It was police.
Their grandson Daniel Cowart had fallen into trouble. He and Paul Schlesselman, were accused of plotting to launch a murder spree targeting blacks that culminated with the shooting down of a presidential candidate. Additionally, they planned to rob a federally licensed gun dealer of weapons and ammunition for themselves.
Early Life and Education
Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman were arrested in 2008 on charges that they planned a racist murder spree targeting black individuals as well as plotting to assassinate President Barack Obama, according to court documents.
Cowart was born in Henderson, Texas and attended high school there as a tailback for their football team until graduating in 1970. Following high school graduation he joined the Air Force where he flew cargo planes in Vietnam for three years.
Cowart managed to survive an explosion that burned most of his body and was treated at various hospitals including Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and Galveston. Doctors attempted to save him by submerging him in tanks of bleach solution (a common treatment technique at that time), however Cowart refused treatment as he wanted to die and instead simply wanted to die on his own terms.
After this incident, he lost his left leg below the knee and was medically retired from the army in 2008.
Court documents indicate that Cowart and Paul Schlesselman intended to murder 88 individuals and decapitate 14 of them during a killing spree culminating with an attempt at assassinating President Barack Obama. Furthermore, they planned on burglarizing a federally licensed gun dealer in Crockett County Tennessee in order to gain more weapons for themselves.
These men reportedly met online approximately one month ago and became united through their belief in white supremacy. Unfortunately, their plans were foiled when police identified some flaws in their preparations, such as using sidewalk chalk to write “Swastikas on Car” and an attempt at house robbery that failed after someone alerted police.
Achievement and Honors
Cowart was on patrol near Samarra, Iraq when his platoon stopped an insurgent driver wearing a suicide vest and carrying an assault rifle. Cowart maneuvered his team around the vehicle before engaging the insurgent hand-to-hand, knocking him out with punches before engaging other insurgents to save other lives, according to a citation for Distinguished Service Cross.
Cowart admitted conspiring with Paul Schlesselman of West Helena, Arkansas, to carry out a killing spree targeting African-Americans that led up to President Obama’s assassination. Both Cowart and Schlesselman admitted breaking into a firearms dealer in Arkansas in order to acquire weapons for their plan.
Cowart is a member of the Supreme White Alliance (SWA), a racially extremist group founded in 1972 that claims to be “America’s oldest and largest organized racist extremist group”. Cowart’s member #3 listing on SWA Ning site indicates his membership number; postings by him included “H8” or 88 as codewords for Heil Hitler.
Daniel Cowart was an advocate of the right-to-die movement. After being involved in an accident, he communicated this desire to doctors and nurses; yet they managed to save his life despite their best efforts.
Authorities believe Cowart and Schlesselman had planned a killing spree targeting black people, culminating in an attempt to assassinate President Obama. They discussed killing 88 individuals and decapitating 14 others – an number with significant meaning for skinhead culture because “88” stands for “Heil Hitler”.
Cowart and Schlesselman were arrested at their grandparents’ home in rural West Tennessee after an informant informed authorities of their plans. They were charged with conspiring to obtain firearms from a federally licensed gun dealer illegally as well as unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun, in addition to making terroristic threats against President Barack Obama.
Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, have been indicted by federal prosecutors on multiple federal counts, including threatening presidential candidate Gary Johnson with violence, illegal possession of sawed-off shotgun and conspiracy to rob licensed gun dealer. Additionally they face additional charges such as transporting firearms across state lines as well as unlawfully possessing weapons during acts of violence.
According to court documents, these individuals wrote racially charged words and symbols on the exterior of their car, according to court documents. Authorities stated they planned on breaking into a home in Crockett County before purchasing rope, food and ski masks in preparation for either home invasion or armed robbery sprees where they indicated willingness to die during their sprees.
These men are believed to be members of the white supremacist group Supreme White Alliance. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an image posted by them on SWA’s Ning site showed them celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday alongside other SWA members – however the site also noted they had been kicked out from membership of SWA.