A right-wing conspiracy theorist who allegedly planted a hoax bomb that forced evacuation of a New York City mall surrendered to police early Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Louis Shenker, 22, who had recently been arrested and accused of arson, telephoned police before he turned himself in at about 3 a.m., officials said.
Firefighters on Monday morning discovered a stolen car in Queens with wire, cans and electrical wiring in the form of a hoax bomb device on top of the vehicle’s trunk.
No explosives were found in the vehicle — a Tesla with Nevada plates parked on a spiral ramp between parking garage levels at the Queens Place mall — but police rescued a husky dog from inside it.
The car had pro-Black Lives Matter movement signage, raising questions of whether the signs were intended to discredit the movement, three senior law enforcement officials said.
Law enforcement officials say that police were already investigating Shenker and that they have arrested him twice in connection with other disruptive stunts.
On Wednesday, he was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and two counts of low-level arson, accused of burning a poster affixed to a New York Police Department barricade, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said Shenker repeatedly engaged in a variety of similar stunts, including anti-mask actions, which he documented on Instagram.
Shenker has repeatedly tweeted at Nick Fuentes, a prominent figure in the far-right Groyper movement, which seeks to turn the racist and homophobic trolling culture of the extremist forum 4chan into real life action. His Twitter account has been suspended.
Shenker appeared on an InfoWars online conspiracy webcast last month, when he pushed false conspiracy theories about the election, the coronavirus and a plot to take over the world.
He implored “100,000 people at minimum to come to New York City” to protest a litany of causes outside Mayor Bill de Blasio’s residence, including the false conspiracy theory that “Donald John Trump is the rightful winner of this election.”
He also falsely pushed internet rumors about coronavirus vaccines, including an elaborate plot featuring the Chinese government, Bill Gates, George Soros, the Clintons and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
A review of an Instagram account, confirmed to belong to Shenker by three senior law enforcement officials briefed about the investigation, shows Shenker burning a photo of George Floyd with a caption that refers profanely to Floyd and insults the Black Lives Matter movement.
In another post, Shenker appears to have staged an incident in which his car was hit with red paint and with signs warning him to “be afraid.” The photo has a location attached corresponding with Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s residence.
The account also shows a recent post of an “Amtrak requires everyone to wear a face mask” sign burning, captioned, “It doesn’t get better than this!”
Shenker has posted the hashtag StopTheSteal and pro-Trump signage, as well. His Twitter account, linked from a website devoted to his nationalist YouTube show and podcast, has been suspended.
Shenker’s attorney and family did not respond to requests for comment.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Jonathan Dienst is a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York, leading its investigative reporting team and covering justice and law enforcement issues.