Photo: NurPhoto/Contributor via Getty Images
  /  02.15.2023

Von Nukem, a far-right extremist at the center of the 2017 Charlottesville hate speech rally, died by suicide just days before he was to face a federal trial.

Nukem, 35, was supposed to stand trial for smuggling fentanyl across the southern border. However, according to court documents, he failed to appear for his first day in court. As a result, the federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest. But, what wasn’t known at the time was that Nukem was still at his home in Missouri. Nukem reportedly walked outside into the snow, behind a hay shed, and shot himself.

“Suicide notes were found at the scene, left for law enforcement and his children, however, handwriting was somewhat inconsistent,” the coroner’s report states.

Nukem, born Teddy Landrum, became known around the country after attending a rally on Aug. 12, 2017. He was one of many that led the torch march through the University of Virginia campus, glorifying violence.

Nukem and Neo-Nazis yelled and raged against immigrants and minorities whom racists felt were harming the country. The rally promptly revived a nativist movement in the United States.

A month prior, Nukem was arrested as he returned to the States from Mexico. As he made his way into Arizona, Customs and Border Protection agents found 15 kilograms of fentanyl pills stowed behind the seats and floor compartments of his 2019 Nissan Pathfinder.

Per police records, he admitted to paying nearly $215 to smuggle the pills into the country. Nukem was released pending trial and was scheduled to return to Tucson to appear in court last month. 

Nukem was also identified as one of the men who attacked Deandre Harris, according to Molly Conger, an independent journalist in Charlottesville. Harris, a Black man, was assaulted by six white men in a parking garage next to police headquarters during the “Unite the Right” rally. Conger reportedly gathered information that showed Nukem boasted about the attack in text messages with another white supremacist rally organizer.

Many spent months attempting to carefully analyze photos and video from the incident to hold them accountable. Nukem was identified by former classmates in his hometown, with one speaking with the local Springfield News-Leader and describing him as a “token goth kid.” He was also reported to have “an unsettling interest in Nazi Germany.”

During that time, Nukem informed the newspaper that he adopted the white supremacist worldview and supported Donald Trump. “I don’t mind showing solidarity with them,” Nukem told the newspaper. “You have to pick your side. You have to throw your support behind the army that is fighting for you.”

In his obituary, Nukem left behind a wife and five children under 9.




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