| 5 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, firstname.lastname@example.org |
One Dexter family has been living with a lot of fear lately, but it’s their hope that by getting the word out about their situation, which involves white supremacists and a podcaster who investigates the “alt-right,” they can bring back some sense of security to their lives.
Dawn Shea and her family first brought their situation to light by posting a message to the website, NextDoor.com, which bills itself as a free private social network for neighborhood communities.
Her message read: “Dear Neighbors, we recently learned that a podcaster working to expose White Nationalists has the same name as the former owner of our home. Online forums have been encouraging their members to visit our property and make efforts to intimidate us (thinking our home belongs to someone else). This past Wednesday (12/11) we brought home our new baby from the hospital only to spot camera lights around 11:30pm on our front porch. Two hours later the photo was posted (attached below). We are working with the FBI, local police, former residents of our home and have reached out to the podcaster Daniel E. Harper. We and the police ask that you help us just keep an extra watch for suspicious behavior in the neighborhood and let us and/or the police know if you have or do see anything.”
It’s been a long few months for the Shea family.
The Shea family moved into their home in Dexter in mid-August of this year. She said a few weeks into living in their new home, an FBI agent from Ann Arbor and a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy knocked on their door looking for Daniel Harper (the former owner of the home) to warn him a threat was found earlier that day on a white supremacist chat board, basically just saying “Nice looking house at 8224 Bridgeway Dr, Daniel Harper.”
“The name and address had been doxed and at the time, no one seemed to know why,” Shea said. “So we hoped for the best, felt pretty nervous initially, and reached out to the former home owners to let them know. “
Doxing is revealing and publicizing records of an individual, which were previously private or difficult to obtain.
And then Shea said, “A little while later a hand written note came without a return address for Daniel Harper.”
“Knowing the post office couldn’t return it to the sender and thinking hand written likely meant personal and sentimental, I forwarded the letter to the former homeowners,” she said. “It turned out to be a threatening letter of a white supremacist nature. At this point, the Harpers who used to lived at our address let us know what the letter was, that they were in touch with the FBI and we learned that the intended target was in fact another Michigander, also named Daniel E. Harper, who has a podcast designed to unveil and antagonize white supremacist organizations. Apparently they are not amused.”
She said the Harpers who used to live at their address have maintained some kind of contact with podcaster Daniel Harper and asked him to publicly announce that the wrong address has been posted online for him, but he refused.
Things then got even more concerning for the Shea family.
“A month or two went by, then we had our second baby,” Shea said. “We brought her home from the hospital last Wednesday, Dec. 11. A few hours after getting home, I was feeding the baby and noticed flashing lights coming through our front windows onto our ceiling. We live in a quiet neighborhood full of families, so lights at 11:30 p.m. are more than unusual. Concerned, I called my husband to check it out. He looked out front and said it was just a couple of kids with a flashlight.”
However, she said about five minutes later the lights returned.
“I called my husband, Rich, back to the front of the house,” she said. “At this point he saw two young men taking a photo on our front porch. We put things together and knew they were likely white supremacists getting ready to post some kind of photo for intimidation purposes. We called the police and they came out to survey the neighborhood. My husband and I went to bed unable to sleep out of concern for what might happen. My husband stayed up reading more about the online threats and conviction of a man who made some remarks online encouraging people to visit, intimidate us and perhaps even harm our home and hence family.”
She said the next day her husband contacted the FBI about the previous night’s visit and later that day they heard from the previous home owners. She said the podcaster Daniel Harper had seen the photo taken on their front porch and shared it with them and the FBI.
“The Harpers (the former home owner) were very upset and concerned for their and our family,” she said. “The FBI contacted us again and visited us within a day or two.”
She said the FBI then visited with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office to explain more about the situation and work to get everyone on the same page. The WCSO then reached out to the Shea family to let them know they are surveilling their street daily and they spoke with several of their neighbors as well.
WCSO Sgt. Alan Hunt paid a visit to the Shea family this past week to ask how they were doing and if they’ve seen any other suspicious activity.
“Fortunately we have not,” Shea said.
The FBI gave them some guidance on ways to help them protect their home and let unwelcome visitors know they have targeted the wrong property.
“Our hope in sharing this story with the public is to get word to those interested in targeting our home that they are visiting the wrong home and in this process victimizing two innocent families directly, not to mention our neighbors and loved ones who are now living with an unprecedented fear,” Shea said. “We have emailed podcaster Daniel Harper, and like the former owners of our home, asked him to please come out publicly to announce that the wrong home has been targeted. He never responded to our plea.”
She said, “We are concerned for our safety and especially that of our children. The initial anxiety has subsided a bit, but we are on extra alert, as I imagine all of our neighbors are now, at night.”
That being said, she added, “We are so incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support and kindness from the local community, law enforcement and press.”