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Washington state man with antifa ties charged in connection with Proud Boys member shooting

Clash occurred during anti-vaccine mandate protest in Olympia.

Updated: October 1, 2021 - 11:56am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A suspected member of antifa has been charged in connection with the shooting of a Proud Boys leader in Washington state in early September.

Benjamin Anthony Varela, a 36-year-old resident of Olympia, was taken into custody Sept. 23 on suspicion of assault and vandalism. Varela was later charged with assault in the first degree in connection with the shooting of the Proud Boys leader, Tusitala Toese, according to court documents obtained by The Epoch Times.

The incident occurred Sept. 4 when the far-right Proud Boys clashed with members of antifa, a far-left group, during an anti-vaccine mandate protest in Olympia.

Olympia interim Police Chief Aaron Jelcick said shots were fired "by someone from the Antifa group" and a bullet struck Toese.

According to a probable cause statement filed with the court, surveillance video showed a man opening fire at Toese and those near him. Five rounds were fired, one of which hit Toese’s foot, and five 9mm shell casings were discovered at the scene, the Epoch Times also reports.

Andy Ngo, a conservative journalist who has clashed with antifa, says Varela has a history of posting far-left content on social media, that Varela’s profile on Twitter described him as a “professional anarchist, thug, and paid protester” and that his YouTube account featured an antifa flag as its profile image.

Detectives were able to find video of Varela unmasked before the shooting and of the Olympia man changing clothes after the shooting.

Whether Varela has hired an attorney is unclear, and he could not be reached for comment, the Epoch Times also reports.

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