Firearm club adviser resigns as former Proud Boys lawyer draws complaints for university involvement

Firearm club adviser resigns as former Proud Boys lawyer draws complaints for university involvement

Firearm club adviser resigns as former Proud Boys lawyer draws complaints for university involvement
December 06
00:24 2018

Update 12/7: On Thursday, Dec. 6, UNT Texas Marksmen president Jason Armitage released a statement in regards to the Daily’s coverage of Van Dyke’s involvement with the campus organization.

“In light of the recent events and statements that have been made in regards to the involvement of Jason Van Dyke in connection with this student organization I have made the request for him to cease all involvement with the Texas Marksmen club,” Armitage wrote. “After conversing with Mr. Van Dyke, he has agreed that this is the best decision moving forward. As of today, Jason Van Dyke will have no more involvement with the Texas Marksmen club at UNT.”

Van Dyke confirmed in an email on Friday that he had ended his involvement with UNT Marksmen.

In his statement, Armitage said the organization is not connected to political viewpoints.

“Our student organization consistently strives to promote and educate the safe and responsible use of firearms,” Armitage said. “Our club does not serve a political purpose nor do we discriminate against anyone. Our sole purpose is to spread the safe use of firearms that is correspondent to the law. Additionally, in order to help with these missions, we conduct firearms and [License To Carry] trainings at UNT to promote these goals.”

Armitage continued, addressing the connections between Texas Marksmen and Van Dyke, who was involved with the controversial group, Proud Boys.

“We have zero tolerance for anyone affiliated with extremist groups along with discriminatory language or actions from our members or those associated,” Armitage wrote. “While the issue of firearms is currently a heated political issue, the Texas Marksmen does not take a political bent [toward] these issues and is focused on promoting the safe involvement of firearms in people’s lives.”

Armitage said he and the Texas Marksmen will continue to work to address any issues some may have with the organization.

“We regret that such events have had to occur in regards to the Texas Marksmen,” Armitage wrote. “However, I want everyone to know that we are doing everything we can to correct any ill-perceptions students may have about our organization and we will be working actively with the student body to mend bridges.”

Original story:

Craig Howard, associate director of transfer admissions and faculty adviser for UNT firearm club Texas Marksmen, resigned from his adviser position on Friday after learning about ties between Marksmen coach Jason Van Dyke and the extremist group Proud Boys.

Howard said he resigned as the Marksmen’s adviser to distance himself from the club’s leadership after reading reports last week about Van Dyke’s Proud Boy affiliations.

Van Dyke currently assists with coaching of the firearm enthusiasts club that participates in weapons training and competitions. However, Howard said he never attended a meeting of the Marksmen or met any of their leaders but instead performed some managerial tasks, like booking room spaces for club events.

“I’ve never had any kind of contact with [Van Dyke],” Howard said. “I’ve never met him or talked with him or had any interaction with him at all. I’ve pretty much just handled some of the administrator responsibilities on the back-end of the group. I haven’t actively been a participant, and I haven’t had any knowledge of [Van Dyke]. This is all news to me.”

The president of the Texas Marksmen did not return requests for comment.

Additionally, university officials received complaints from Texas man Tom Retzlaff concerning Van Dyke’s UNT connections last Thursday, as the Proud Boys is classified by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “extremist hate group with ties to white nationalism.”

The Proud Boys is an international group of self-described “Western chauvinists” that was started in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnis. McInnis stepped down as their leader last month.

Retzlaff’s complaints urged administrators to ban Van Dyke from participating in university activities due to his alleged white supremacist ties and repeated online threats.

“I want to [hear] that Jason Van Dyke has been banned from the university and banned from any participation in the University of North Texas’ Firearms club,” Retzlaff said in an email to UNT officials. “His leadership of a violent white supremacist organization is not compatible with University of [North] Texas’ values.”

Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said in an email response to Retzlaff that because Van Dyke is not a student, her office sent the information to UNT police.

When contacted for comment, UNT police directed the Daily to UNT News Director Leigh Anne Gullett.

“We take the safety and well-being of our community very seriously and all criminal allegations made to UNT Police will be thoroughly investigated,” Gullett said in an email.

Last week Van Dyke authored and passed new rules for the Proud Boys — most notable for their far-right views and brawling with protesters — that included several redactions within its public release. However, these redactions were later found to be faulty, and the documents still contained the information and names of newly-elected Proud Boys leaders.

Last Thursday, a day after accidentally publishing the un-redacted bylaws, Van Dyke was ousted from the extremist group, according to a public statement on the Proud Boys website.

On the same day as the announcement, two Proud Boys members were arrested on riot charges in connection with an October street fight that occurred outside a Republican club event in New York.

Following the discovery of the faulty redactions, Twitter user @pottscruitt posted screenshots of Van Dyke’s personal phone number and a text conversation in which the attorney made threats of physical violence towards the poster.

Numerous other Twitter users texted Van Dyke, posting screenshots of their text interactions with him, some of which included Van Dyke using racial and sexual slurs.

Van Dyke has maintained a controversial social media presence since making threats of violence and racist comments on Twitter in 2014, when he sent a picture of a noose captioned with a racial epithet to user @dividedly_.

Outside of his online interactions, Van Dyke has faced multiple arrests — including one made in 2000 for domestic violence and weapon charges while he was a student at Michigan State University. Those charges were later dropped.

Other accounts of his time at Michigan State published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, claim Van Dyke kept extremist literature in his dorm and riled up minority students with insensitive language.

In September, Oak Point police arrested Van Dyke for allegedly falsifying a report of a burglary at his Denton County home. Van Dyke was admitted to the Denton County jail following the arrest, though he was released on bail the same day.

Months before his Oak Point arrest, Van Dyke sued a Victoria County district attorney for rescinding a job offer for him after the district attorney received complaints about Van Dyke’s controversial history.

Those complaints were submitted by Retzlaff, who also reported Van Dyke to UNT. Van Dyke then filed a $100 million lawsuit against Retzlaff for missed work, though he has since filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Van Dyke remains eligible to practice law in the state of Texas but declared he is not accepting any new clients at this time.

Deborah Armintor, a Denton City Councilwoman and UNT English professor, shared the Daily’s story from last week in a Facebook post and encouraged others to speak out about to Van Dyke.

“Regardless of whether you are a part of the UNT community or not, please contact UNT President Smatresk (president@unt.edu) if you are concerned about white supremacy on campus and want this matter investigated promptly and the consequences for those responsible shared with the community [and] the public,” Armintor wrote.

Featured Image: Jason Lee Van Dyke. Courtesy Facebook

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated Tom Retzlaff is an attorney from San Antonio. However, he only worked in the office a District Attorney.

The Daily regrets this error.

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Carter Mize

Carter Mize

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