Andrew Oneschuk left Wakefield a couple weeks ago for Tampa, where he planned to stay with acquaintances, work temporarily, and enjoy some fishing before enlisting in the US Navy.
But the 18-year-old quickly became troubled by his hosts and called his father to inform him that he planned to come home Monday.
He never made it.
Instead, Florida authorities say, another teenager named Devon Arthurs, a self-described former neo-Nazi and recent convert to Islam, fatally shot Oneschuk and his friend, Jeremy Himmelman, 22, of Walpole, in the Tampa condominium all three were sharing with a fourth man, Brandon Russell.
Police reports indicate that Arthurs, 18, told investigators all four roommates had been neo-Nazis and that he shot the Massachusetts men with a rifle after they “disrespected” his conversion.
Oneschuk’s father, Walter, refuted that account.
“You’re quoting a lunatic who shot my son in the head,” Walter Oneschuk said in a phone interview Thursday night. “All I know is that Andrew had planned on coming home Monday, and he was very disturbed by the environment. He had altercations with folks, disagreements with their values, and I’m not sure how they met.”
The grieving father continued, “All I know is, [Oneschuk and Himmelman] had gone down to spend some time in Florida, and it ended tragically.” He said seeing his son be linked to extremism has been “very hurtful to the family, very hurtful to the community, and worse off, giving some of these organizations fuel for their vile, bigoted forums.”
Himmelman’s sister, Alyssa, told the Associated Press that her brother knew Russell and Arthurs and had fallen out with them before.
Himmelman was planning to return to Massachusetts and was “too kindhearted to think people like Devon and Brandon could do something like this,” Alyssa told the AP.
He attended Walpole High and “loved animals, especially reptiles and truly enjoyed making others laugh with his crazy antics and outlandish acts,” said an online tribute posted to the James H. Delaney & Son Funeral Home website.
Court filings in the case portray Arthurs as an unhinged gun-toter, who killed Oneschuk and Himmelman, and then fled to a nearby smoke shop, where he ordered terrified customers to the ground at gunpoint, telling one of them, “Why shouldn’t I kill you?”
He freed his hostages at the urging of police and later told investigators that he previously shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates and that this conversion drove a wedge between them, according to an arrest report and a separate FBI affidavit.
When one Tampa officer asked if medics could render aid to his wounded victims, Arthurs answered without hesitation.
“Oh no,” he said, according to the report. “They are definitely dead.”
He also shouted “Allah Mohammed!” and told officers, “This wouldn’t have had to happen if your country didn’t bomb my country,” the report said.
Police placed him in a cruiser and drove back to the condo unit, where they found the fourth roommate, Russell, clad in full Army fatigues and crying outside the apartment, according to the report. Arthurs calmly explained.
“That’s my roommate,” he told police, according to the report. “He doesn’t know what’s going on and just found them like you guys did.”
Arthurs said Russell joined online neo-Nazi chats and threatened to kill people and set off explosives, according to an FBI affidavit.
Investigators found explosives in a garage area, including more than a pound of ammonium nitrate addressed to Russell and an explosive known as HMTD, along with empty ammunition cases with fuses that could be “used to detonate destructive devices,” an FBI affidavit said.
In addition, Russell had guns and a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in his room and admitted to harboring neo-Nazi beliefs. He identified himself as a member of a group called “Atom Waffen,” or “atomic weapon” in German, the affidavit said.
He claimed that he used the HMTD for projects for a college engineering club, according to the affidavit.
Russell is currently being held on federal gun and explosive-related charges. He has not entered a plea in US District Court in Tampa.
“Mr. Russell absolutely did not intend to assemble any kind of bomb or destructive device,” his lawyer, Ian J. Goldstein, said in an e-mail.
Arthurs is facing two murder counts and other charges in state court, with a bond hearing scheduled for June 12. He has not entered a plea, and his public defender could not be reached.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.