Social media accounts associated with two Canadian teenagers have been found to contain hints of far-right and white supremacist radicalization, with one of the teens posting photos posing with a Nazi armband.
Bryer Schmgelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, are wanted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in connection with the murders of three people, including hiker couple Chynna Deese, 23, and Lucas Fowler, 24, who were found dead on the side of the Alaska Highway in a rural area of British Columbia on July 15. A third victim, a University of British Columbia botany lecturer identified as Leonard Dyck, 64, was found a few hundred miles away from Deese’s and Fowler’s bodies, about a mile away from a burning van belonging to Schmegelsky and McLeod.
After their burning vehicle was found, police initially classified Schmegelsky and McLeod as missing persons, but announced that they were persons of interest in the investigation of the three murders after they were seen traveling through northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Authorities believe they are armed and dangerous, and have cautioned anyone who sees them not to approach them.
While a potential motive is still unclear, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the suspects were linked to an account called Illusive Gameing [sic], which has pages on YouTube and the gaming platforms Twitch and Steam. A profile photo for the Illusive Gameing account features the Reichsadler, the heraldic eagle used as a nationalist symbol for Hitler’s Third Reich.
A Steam user who communicated with Schmegelsky on the platform also told the Globe and Mail that Schmegelsky was obsessed with Hitler and the Third Reich, and that he ultimately stopped communicating with him for this reason. The Steam user, whose identity was not revealed by the Globe and Mail, shared images dating from fall 2018 of what appears to be a swastika armband and a knife with the message “blud und uhre,” German for blood and honor; another photo appears to show Schmegelsky wearing a gas mask, while yet another shows the young man wearing military fatigues and carrying a pellet rifle. Schmegelsky’s father Alan told Coast Mountain News that his son demonstrated a fascination with Nazi memorabilia when he saw some during a visit to an army surplus store a few months ago, though he denied that his son was obsessed with Nazism and said instead his son was a fan of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
An extremely popular gaming store and community platform, Steam has been criticized for adopting a fairly lax moderation policy, with some accusing the platform of turning a blind eye to hate speech and violent misogynist language on the platform. In late 2018, a Northern Virginia teen was accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend’s parents after they discovered pro-Nazi imagery, including an SS symbol and the quote “National socialism will prevail,” on his Steam profile. The story drew attention to Valve’s relatively lax policies, as did the platform hosting a game called Rape Day, in which players were able to stalk and rape women. (Steam pulled the game following intense media criticism.)
Steam did not reply to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment by press time.
Schmegelsky and McLeod were reportedly friends and high school classmates, who told their parents earlier this month they planned to travel to Whitehorse in the Yukon to look for work together. Their parents have not heard from them since, leading Schmegelsky’s father to speculate that they may be on a suicide mission.
“A normal child doesn’t travel across the country killing people,” he said. “I’m so sorry all of this had to happen. I’m sorry that I couldn’t rescue you.”