Southern Colorado Man Pleads Guilty In Pueblo Synagogue Bombing Plot

October 16, 2020
Temple EmanuelTemple EmanuelHayley Sanchez/CPR News
Congregants and guests attend Shabbat at Temple Emanuel on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, a week after a foiled plot to attack the synagogue in Pueblo.

Richard Holzer, a 28-year-old man from Colorado, has pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and explosives charges for his plans to blow up Pueblo's Temple Emanuel Synagogue.

According to prosecutors, Holzer is a self-described neo-Nazi and white supremacist who actively promoted his views on social media. He wanted to use the attack to drive Jewish residents out of Pueblo. At 120 years, Temple Emanuel is Colorado's second-oldest synagogue.

Pueblo Temple EmanuelHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Pueblo's Temple Emanuel, Jan. 7 2019.

Holzer's efforts began last year and developed through meetings and conversations with undercover FBI agents. He visited the synagogue for surveillance, sent an agent pictures of him holding guns, and repeatedly talked about his hatred of Jewish people.

On Nov. 1, 2019, the agents supplied Holzer with fake explosives made to look like pipe bombs and sticks of dynamite, which he planned to use that night. He was arrested shortly after the exchange.

The hate crime and explosives charges he has pleaded guilty to carry a maximum sentence of 20 years each and a fine of up to $250,000. Holzer is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20.

In this case, justice has prevailed, said Mike Atlas-Acuña, president of Temple Emanuel’s board of directors.

"I've been saying all along, from bad things, good things happen," he said. "And the good thing is that once (Holzer's arrest) happened, we started receiving donations from people in Pueblo but also from people across the country."

The temple used the donations to install security cameras. Atlas-Acuña added that people also emotionally supported the Jewish community by attending services, placing flowers and singing outside the temple after Holzer's arrest.

“It really just made the Jewish community feel, 'Ok yeah, this guy tried to do this, but the Pueblo community embraces us,'" he said. "And so we’re very, very grateful for that.”

After the incident, the community rallied to hold a unity walk and Pueblo also held its first-ever menorah lighting to celebrate Hanukkah.