Man accused of threatening synagogue makes court appearance

Joel Hayden Schrimsher enters the 138th state District Court Thursday for a bond reduction and probable cause hearing. The 18-year-old Harlingen resident was arrested by police for threatening to set fire to a mosque and shoot up a synagogue.(Denise Cathey/ The Brownsville Herald)

A Harlingen man indicted in two separate cases alleging he threatened to set fire to a mosque and shoot up a synagogue appeared in court Wednesday in Brownsville for a status hearing.

Joel Hayden Schrimsher was indicted in September on state-level charges alleging he threatened to commit violence to a property with intent to place the public in fear of serious bodily injury. The indictment charged him on three counts of allegedly making threats against a mosque, a synagogue, and the Federal Reserve.

The state-level indictment against Schrimsher was followed by a federal indictment handed down by a grand jury on Oct. 29. The document alleged that Schrimsher used his Twitter account to make the threats and that he planned to mail a bomb to the Federal Reserve, set fire to a mosque, and set fire to and shoot up a synagogue.

Both cases are ongoing.

On Wednesday, Schrimsher appeared before Judge Adolfo E. Cordova, Jr. of the 197th state District Court, accompanied by his attorney Rolando Garza. Cameron County First Administrative Assistant District Attorney Edward Sandoval told Cordova that the state is working on its case against Schrimsher concurrent to the federal case.

Sandoval informed the judge that the federal government is negotiating a potential plea agreement on one of its charges against Schrimsher and that his office was working to understand how that would affect the state-level case.

State prosecutors were trying to determine whether federal custody would serve as the best rehabilitative environment for Schrimsher, Sandoval said.

Garza asked for the rest of their concerns to be discussed off the record. The three men met in private before returning to the courtroom to set new trial dates. Currently, trial is set to begin on June 8.

Schrimsher was arrested on June 6, 2019 after the Harlingen Police Department received a tip from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents based in Washington, D.C., about a response to a tweet allegedly posted by Schrimsher, according to The Brownsville Herald archives.

Investigators who searched the home said they found bomb-making materials including aluminum powder, red iron oxide, sulfur nitrate, and potassium nitrate alongside hand-written formulas to make napalm, thermite, flash powder, nitroglycerin, and smoke bombs, according to information shared by investigators during a June hearing.

A previous report stated that HPD Commander David Osborne testified the ATF tipped the department off about Schrimsher’s response to a tweet that showed a 7-year-old boy who raised $22,000 to build President Donald Trump’s border wall being hit by a car.

Authorities testified that they discovered racist photos, content glorifying Nazis, and still footage of a school shooting on the young man’s cell phone. Schrimsher allegedly told investigators that he wasn’t serious about the tweet and his father testified that the chemicals were used to make smoke bombs at a cookout three years prior, according to Herald archives.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com