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Arizona man indicted for plans to start a ‘race war’ with mass shooting

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Arizona man indicted for plans to start a ‘race war’ with mass shooting

Jun 12, 2024 | 4:20 pm ET
By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
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Arizona man indicted for plans to start a ‘race war’ with mass shooting
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Mark Adams Prieto leaves a Phoenix gun show with two long rifles that he had allegedly told an undercover FBI agent he intended to use in an attack. Photo via the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice indicted a Prescott area man this week based on allegations that he planned to shoot up a Bad Bunny concert in Atlanta to initiate a “race war.” 

Mark Adams Prieto, 58, was indicted by a federal grand jury on firearms trafficking, transfer of a firearm for use in a hate crime and possession of an unregistered firearm. 

The indictment alleges that between January and May, Prieto discussed his plan to commit a mass shooting against Black people and other minorities to incite a race war prior to the 2024 Presidential Election. Prietro did not know he was speaking with a confidential informant and an agent from the Phoenix Field Office of the FBI. 

Prieto’s intended target was a rap concert in Atlanta that was set to be held on May 14 and May 15 at the State Farm Arena. The venue website shows that Puerto Rican rapper and singer Bad Bunny was scheduled to perform on those dates

Prieto came onto the FBI’s radar when a confidential source told them that Prieto had expressed a desire to incite a race war prior to the presidential election. The source and Prieto had spoken at various gun shows but the small talk turned political and, eventually, violent. 

Within the last year the source told the FBI that Prieto began “making suspicious and alarming comments, including advocating for a mass shooting, and specifically targeting ‘blacks, Jews, or Muslims,’” according to a complaint filed by the FBI in Arizona Federal Court. 

Contributed to DocumentCloud by @JerodMacEvoy (Arizona Mirror) • View document or read text

Prieto told the source he believed that martial law would be implemented after the 2024 election and that the mass shooting should occur prior to that. The Prescott man also asked the source if he was “ready to kill a bunch of people” and recruited him for the attack, also asking if the source could help recruit others. 

The FBI then conducted surveillance and a sting operation at local gun shows where Prieto was a vendor to obtain the information for the indictment. Prieto was a vendor at the popular Crossroads of the West gun show where he sold guns from his private collection and said he preferred “off book” trades in cash for his weapons. 

Eventually, the source and an undercover FBI agent spoke with Prieto at a Crossroads of the West gun show at the Arizona State Fairgrounds when Prieto ended up sharing his plan with the two men. 

He said he wanted to “commit crimes of violence against African Americans in Atlanta,” court records show and that he specifically wanted to target a rap concert.  

“The reason I say Atlanta. Why, why is Georgia such a f—-up state now? When I was a kid that was one of the most conservative states in the country,” Prieto said to the agent and source. “Why is it not now? Because as the crime got worse in LA, St. Louis, and all these other cities, all the n—— moved out of those (places) and moved to Atlanta. That’s why it isn’t so great anymore. And they’ve been there for a couple, several years.”

Prieto also planned to leave confederate flags after the shooting to “send a message” that “we’re going to fight back now, and every whitey will be the enemy across the whole country.” 

He later added that the men should show “no mercy, no quarter” as he said that they “can’t have any feeling, they’re not people. They’re monsters as far as I’m concerned.” 

The complaint filed in federal court also alleges that Prieto urged the men to destroy the weapons after and wear gloves and also said the attack should occur following Super Tuesday so they would know which candidates were likely to make it onto the November ballot. 

At another gun show in February in Phoenix, Prieto spoke to the source and immediately asked if he and the undercover agent were “still a go for the attack.” He then provided advice to the two men on the plan of attack and advised them to have two rifles and a sniper as well as a handgun for back up. 

“You want to corral them. And some people might be trying to leave out of a corner, and you want to blast those guys. Once (they) get the idea that they are trapped then there is pandemonium,” Prieto said to the source and undercover agent. “Now they’re in a panic. And they can’t get out. Now they are going to be crawling over each other to get out.” 

Prieto also said that he wanted to make it clear that the attack was racially motivated and told the men to shout “whities out here killing, what’s we gonna do” and “KKK all the way” among other racially charged sayings. 

He also emphasized that it was important for the attack to lead to a high body count and said that “these people don’t belong here in this country anyway, okay.” He also advised who he thought were his accomplices to use weapons that don’t have a paper trail. 

He would later sell an AK-47 to the undercover agent for $2,000 cash. 

In March at a gun show in Prescott Valley the undercover agent asked Prieto if the plan was just talk or if they were actually going to do it. 

“If you wait till after the election, they might have everything in place you can’t even drive, you’ll be stopped,” Prieto answered. “I want to try to put the guns in place by ten if we can’t do it before they put everything in place.” 

He also confirmed with the undercover agent that the target would be the Bad Bunny concert in Atlanta. 

On May 14, Prieto was arrested in New Mexico and told authorities he was traveling to Florida to see his mother. He admitted that he knew both the undercover agent and the source and had discussed attacking a concert to start a revolution but denied that it was actually going to happen. 

He was found with five firearms in his vehicle and more at his residence. He also admitted to selling the firearm to the undercover agent. 

If convicted for firearms trafficking and transfer of a firearm for use in a hate crime, Prieto could see a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. A conviction for possession of an unregistered firearm carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. 

The government petitioned the court to keep Prieto detained until he has his initial hearing because of the gravity of the crimes he is accused of committing.