Lovell A. Wheeler, an alleged member of a white supremacist group who is charged with recklessly storing a stockpile of gunpowder in his Southeast Baltimore rowhouse, defended himself in a jail interview yesterday, saying he is merely a gun enthusiast who is a victim of a governmental conspiracy.
Calling himself a "political prisoner," Wheeler, 61, also denied contentions by authorities that he belonged to the National Alliance, one of the country's largest neo-Nazi organizations -- though his wife is a member and hosts an Internet radio show for the group.
"I'm basically a good citizen," Wheeler said during a telephone interview from the city jail, where he is being held without bail. "I'm a gunsmith. I'm a target shooter. ... I'm going to the gulag simply because of my views."
Wheeler was arrested July 1 after police raided his house and seized more than 60 pounds of gunpowder stored in improper containers, including bleach bottles and paint thinner cans. In addition to thousands of rounds of ammunition, 22 guns and other firearms in various stages of assembly, detectives seized National Alliance and hate literature, police have said.
Wheeler is charged with reckless endangerment, possessing more than 5 pounds of smokeless gunpowder without a license and not storing the powder in its proper container at his house in the 500 block of S. East Ave. in Highlandtown.
A judge ordered Wheeler held without bail after prosecutors argued at an Aug. 12 hearing that his gunpowder could have ignited, causing an explosion and inferno while shooting off thousands of bullets.
"Mr. Wheeler's an extreme risk to public safety," Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said yesterday.
Wheeler's lawyers could not be reached, but the accused defended himself on several fronts during a series of telephone interviews over the past week.
He had large amounts of gunpowder and ammunition in his rowhouse, Wheeler said, because he buys the munitions in bulk and did not have a chance to target shoot much this year because of rain.
He said he was unaware of a Maryland law that requires a license for possessing more than 5 pounds of gunpowder and the proper storage of the material.
In a search warrant affidavit, police portrayed Wheeler as a member of the National Alliance who encouraged a white police officer to join the group "because the blacks are trying to kill all whites."
"Mr. Wheeler went on to express his views on Jews controlling the media and attempting to start a war within the city," the affidavit says. "Mr. Wheeler stated, 'The war is going to start in the city and I am ready and need more troops to help in the fight.'"
In interviews, Wheeler said he was not a racist or anti-Semite and was "a great admirer" of at least two prominent African-Americans: Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. "Those are two premier black men," he said.
The son of Arkansas cotton farmers, Wheeler moved to Baltimore about 20 years ago after being influenced by the writings of H.L. Mencken, an iconoclastic author and a columnist and editor for The Sun and The Evening Sun in the first half of the 20th century who held contentious views on race and religion. "I was very much impressed," Wheeler said.
As a youth, Wheeler learned to hunt and fell in love with firearms. He builds guns and sells mounts that hold scopes to rifles. In a brochure promoting his mounts, Wheeler outlined some of his social views.
"These Inner City dregs I live among and work with live for four things, to eat sweet greasy food, to take a trip to Atlantic City, to make payments on an automobile and to watch some stupid television program written for couch potatoes," he wrote in the brochure. "Nature's cauldron of natural selection will render them soon enough."
He said in the interviews that he believes the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and the Washington-area sniper attacks last year were orchestrated by undercover CIA operatives.
Wheeler said the attacks were to frighten Americans into giving authorities more power.
"The CIA is like a supernational police force for global bankers," he said. "They do all sorts of things. They will silence a person with a pistol shot or some poison. Some others they give a show trial. They did the same thing in Russia in the '30s and '40s. We're 95 percent into a dictatorship now."
He added that the "planet is run by a cabal of global bankers, and for centuries they have played the nations and races of the world against each other."
Wheeler has spoken on talk radio and over the Internet about government conspiracies, he said, and has passed out National Alliance literature.
His wife, Elizabeth, joined the National Alliance after being robbed by a black man several years ago, Wheeler said, and has an Internet radio program for the National Alliance called Grandmother Elizabeth's Reading Hour for White Children.
"I am interested in advancing the interests of the white race because we are looked down upon, we are put upon and we need something done about that," said Elizabeth Wheeler, 72. "My being a member of a white racial group is no different than a Negro belonging to the NAACP."
The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks white supremacist organizations, calls the National Alliance the "single most dangerous organized hate group in the United States today," saying that dozens of violent crimes can be traced to the group.
The FBI said last year that the National Alliance was "a continuing terrorist threat."