Two of the Patriot Front members arrested in Cd'A over the weekend have ties to Matt Shea and his church.
Of the 31 Patriot Front members arrested in Coeur d'Alene Saturday, two have ties to Matt Shea and one appears to be part of the team at Shea’s On Fire Ministries. For a rundown on the arrest, check out Daniel Walters’ piece in the New York Times.
Patriot Front is a Texas-based White Nationalist hate group that broke away from another similar group, Vanguard USA, after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the murder of Heather Heyer. Patriot Front has had an active presence in the Inland Northwest since at least March 2021 when people began noticing stickers and posters popping up at busy intersections throughout the region, along the Centennial Trail in Riverfront Park, and on the campus of the embattled North Idaho College. A mural of George Floyd on the side of Shacktown Community Cycle in downtown Spokane was defaced twice, the second time in April 2021 using stickers and stencils bearing the Patriot Front logo. In the leadup to Saturday’s event in Coeur d’Alene, at least one far-right Twitter personality was referring to it as Charlottesville II.
Among those arrested Saturday, only one suspect was initially identified as being from Spokane: Mishael Buster.
It now appears that Josiah, the other Buster arrested, used to live in the same Hillyard house as Mishael and appears to still be registered to vote there. He has since moved to Watauga, Texas, which is the address he gave police in Coeur d’Alene. Watauga is a suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Thomas Rousseau, the founder of Patriot Front who was also arrested Saturday, lives in nearby Grapevine, Texas.
According to the Spokane County Assessor, that Yale Street home in Spokane is owned by Matt and Diane Buster.
Matt Buster is a well-known associate of Matt Shea, the preacher and former Washington state legislator who was expelled from the State Republican Caucus after an investigation found he had committed acts of domestic terrorism. Buster has helped Shea for years with various rallies and protests, such as The Church at Planned Parenthood (TCAPP) and several of the Reopen protests Shea organized in 2020 and 2021. Activists have asserted that Matt is Josiah and Mishael’s father, but RANGE was unable to independently confirm that.
As has become common both nationally and locally, when arrests like these are made, journalists and activists immediately went to work to make connections and offer context on those arrested. Many of the Patriot Front members were well known, and documentation came relatively quickly.
The Busters took a little longer to run down, but local activists and journalists including RANGE started making connections midday Sunday. Stronger Together Spokane, a far-right watchdog Twitter account, first pointed out the connection publicly Sunday evening around 6 p.m.
Shea and his wife Viktoriya are founders and Senior Pastors of On Fire Ministries. The On Fire staff page lists Matt Buster as leading “Real Men’s Ministry” at the church.
In a separate Facebook post celebrating On Fire Ministries moving to a new location, Worship Pastor Gabe Blomgren thanked the Church’s “online team” members, including “Shael Buster” — presumably short for Mishael. Later, in an On Fire Ministries video posted on Dec. 19, 2021, and reshared by Matt Buster, Shea is seen welcoming Matt and Shael Buster onstage to read announcements to the congregation and tell some jokes.
Shea and Blomgren were also in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday, leading a small protest march with bullhorns that did not appear to be directly connected to the Patriot Front action.
At roughly the same time as the arrest was taking place, Shea and Blomgren were seen leading a group of protestors in Coeur d’Alene. At one point, the group stopped in front of the Coeur d’Alene Press building and Blomgren led them in a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” An unknown man said a prayer that “one day the Coeur d’Alene Press would one day be a bastion of righteousness.”
The group moved to the county courthouse and eventually to the Human Rights Education Institute, where Shea prayed aloud that God was the author of all rights, and “government can never take it away, and they can never say under the euphemism of human rights, that the rights of Christians do not matter.”
In addition to his role at On Fire Ministries, Gabe Blomgren is the cohost with Caleb Collier of a podcast called “Church and State,” which has dedicated several segments recently to antagonizing the LGBTQIA2S+ community, including a May 31 podcast entitled “Pride month is an indicator that the doomsday clock is ticking.”
On Saturday, a story posted to the official Church and State Facebook page shared a video of law enforcement opening the U-Haul with the caption “This is HUGE Antifa stopped.”
The post echoed several conspiracy theories that began flying soon after video of the arrest hit social media. Some claimed that the men in the U-Haul are either antifa or paid by the Biden administration. Others went as far as to say Patriot Front itself is not a real white nationalist organization, but a psyop — a psychological operation — of the government.
Around the same time, Matt Shea went live on the Facebook page of Redoubt News — a North-Idaho-based far-right media outlet with a large national following — to make a similar claim.
“Just a few minutes ago, as we were on our prayer walk, it looks like antifa may have been setting an ambush for us. A U-Haul truck … was busted just after we walked past with our prayer march.”
Shea goes on to describe the khaki pants and white balaclavas the men were wearing and compares them to a widely circulated conspiracy theory about a van of similarly dressed antifa in Washington, DC, during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
These conspiracy theories were immediately debunked at the time, including by the insurrectionists themselves, but we have seen them continue to circulate online, especially in the aftermath of Saturday’s arrests.
“Looks like they were busted here in North Idaho,” Shea concludes, “... we are fearless right now. They will not win. Because we are patriotic Americans we will not give up. We will keep up the fight, in Jesus’ name.”
It’s unclear whether Shea or the person who posted the “Church and State” story knew that Mishael Buster was on board the U-Haul at that time.
ALSO OF NOTE:
According to Tarrant County property records, Josiah Buster owns the Watauga, Texas, home he listed as his address. It also serves as the registered office of a Roofing Company that Buster helps run, and which is owned by a man, Cameron Schronk, Buster claims to have met while serving in the Army Rangers. Josiah Buster appeared on the company website as Operations Manager as of Sunday evening. By Monday morning, his bio had been taken down.
A second man arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Connor Patrick Moran, listed the same Spring Creek address, but his connection to Josiah Buster is unclear.
By midday Sunday, all 31 men arrested had been released on bail.
This story was updated to include further corroboration of Shea’s ties to Mishael Buster and to include a video of Shea claiming the U-Haul was a thwarted antifa attack on he and his followers.