Leader of Utah Surveillance Firm Is a Former KKK Member Involved in a Past Synagogue Shooting

Illustration for article titled Leader of Utah Surveillance Firm Is a Former KKK Member Involved in a Past Synagogue Shooting
Photo: John Moore (Getty Images)

In 2018, Utah officials hired a company to provide massive surveillance of 911 calls, traffic cameras and social media posts. Now, the Utah attorney general’s office will suspend the state’s use of the surveillance system after learning that the founder of the company is a former KKK member.

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The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that Damien Patton, leader and co-founder of the surveillance company Banjo, was a member of the Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan when he was 17. He accompanied a leader of the white supremacist group in the drive-by shooting of a Nashville synagogue in 1990.

Attorney General Sean Reyes’ spokesman Richard Piatt said the office “is shocked and dismayed at reports that Banjo’s founder had any affiliation with any hate group or groups in his youth.”

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“Neither the attorney general nor anyone in the attorney general’s office were aware of these affiliations or actions,” Piatt said adding that they “absolutely condemn the hate and violence promoted by supremacist groups and will continue to aggressively fight crimes and decry domestic terror perpetrated by them.”

Patton’s past was first uncovered by OneZero.

Documents available to the public and reviewed by OneZero — including transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of records produced from a federal hate crime prosecution — reveal that Patton actively participated in white supremacist groups in his youth and was involved in the shooting of a synagogue. In an interview with OneZero, one of the people involved in that shooting confirmed Patton’s participation. Patton has not previously acknowledged this chapter of his life in public.

In grand jury testimony that ultimately led to the conviction of two of his associates, Patton revealed that, as a 17-year-old, he was involved with the Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. On the evening of June 9, 1990 — a month before Patton turned 18 — Patton and a Klan leader took a semi-automatic TEC-9 pistol and drove to a synagogue in a Nashville suburb. With Patton at the wheel, the Ku Klux Klan member fired onto the synagogue, destroying a street-facing window and spraying bullets and shattered glass near the building’s administrative offices, which were next to that of the congregation’s rabbi. No one was struck or killed in the shooting. Afterward, Patton hid on the grounds of a white supremacist paramilitary training camp under construction before fleeing the state with the help of a second Klan member.

Patton also testified that he participated in meetings about eliminating black and Jewish people.

“32 years ago I was a lost, scared, and vulnerable child.” Patton told the Tribune. “I won’t go into detail, but the reasons I left home at such a young age are unfortunately not unique; I suffered abuse in every form. I did terrible things and said despicable and hateful things, including to my own Jewish mother, that today I find indefensibly wrong, and feel extreme remorse for. I have spent most of my adult lifetime working to make amends for this shameful period in my life.”

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Banjo still has or had contracts with numerous Utah institutions including the University of Utah—which also announced it was suspending its relationship with the company—as well as the Park City and Ogden police departments.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

feministonfire
FeministOnFire

His mother is Jewish...making him a FULL, unequivocal Jew by most accounts but the freakin’ KKK accepted him without vetting, let him into meetings, took him on shootouts AND helped him hide and get away?!

Wow, that’s some real diversity and inclusion right there! I'm sure he practiced the same Affirmative Action hiring dudes named Jamal and Quan to help him surveil minority communities, right?!