An alleged plot to inflict violence at the Pokemon World Championship was foiled after security officers at the venue where the event was being held alerted the Boston Police Department to a series of threats posted on social media, authorities said.
James Stumbo, 27, and Kevin Norton, 18, both of Iowa, had no prior criminal history before they were arraigned today. They face numerous gun charges after police found weapons in their car parked outside a convention center in Boston.
Norton walked into court wearing a camouflage hunting t-shirt; Stumbo wore a grey shirt. Both are also charged with making violent social media threats and were ordered to be held without bail at their arraignment today. The next court hearing is set for September 1.
The apparent threats were posted on a private Pokemon group and included references to Columbine, the Boston bombings and the Boston Massacre, authorities said, prompting the moderator of the forum to contact the Pokemon Company International, setting off the chain of events that led to law enforcement stopping the men from entering the tournament.
They also allegedly made personal threats to specific people who were attending the event. Norton planned to shoot a Pokémon game moderator who had blocked him from the private social media forum, prosecutors said.
Authorities said they “made references” to what they were going to do, but didn’t exactly spell out what their plan was.
"They could have done a lot of damage, hurt a lot of people," Boston Police Department Commander Superintendent Paul Fitzgerald said at a news conference today. He said the two men had qualified for the competition and had engaged on the forum with certain individuals, however he said authorities believe the alleged threats included references to what could have been a broad act of violence.
After learning of the threats on Thursday, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) began investigating the matter. Hours later, the two men, who police said had allegedly driven from Iowa, were stopped from entering the event. Authorities said they responded to the convention center after learning the men had weapons in their vehicle. When they were unable to produce a gun license, police seized the vehicle and released the men pending a search warrant, according to the Boston Police Department.
A search carried out Friday had revealed a trove of weapons and ammunition, including a 12-gauge Remington shotgun, a DPM5 Model AR-15 rifle, several hundred rounds of ammunition, and a hunting knife, authorities said.
Stumbo and Norton were arrested Friday at the Red Roof Inn in Saugus, Massachusetts after police discovered a shotgun, assault rifle, several hundred rounds of ammunition, and a hunting knife in their vehicle.
Both police and the Pokemon Company International praised the swift action for mitigating what could have potentially been a nightmare at the tournament, which lasted through the weekend.
“We went by the words they used," Fitzgerald said. "The same people who said the things they said, brought the weapons they said they would use."
The Pokémon Trading Card Game and Video Game World Championships is an invitation-only event with players competing for a share of more than $500,000 in scholarship awards, according to the Pokemon website.
"Prior to the event this weekend, our community of players made us aware of a security issue," the Pokemon Company International said in a statement. "We gathered information and gave it as soon as possible to the authorities at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center who acted swiftly and spearheaded communication with the Boston Police Department. Due to quick action, the potential threat was resolved."