Man with reported ties to Antifa charged following shooting at protest against vaccine mandates

A man said to have ties to the Portland, Oregon-based cell of Antifa has been arrested and charged with assault after allegedly shooting a purported Proud Boys member who was providing security for protesters speaking up against vaccine mandates earlier this month in Olympia, Washington, the Washington Examiner reported.

The man has since been identified as 36-year-old Benjamin Anthony Varela of Olympia, and he faces a charge of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, the Examiner said.

Protest disrupted

The incident for which Varela has been charged reportedly occurred on Sept. 4 near the Intercity Transit Station in Olympia, according to local NBC affiliate KING 5, after a black-clad group of Antifa had shown up to counterprotest and harass those who were demonstrating against vaccine mandates.

The anti-mandate protesters had voluntary security with them, though, which included members of Antifa’s rival Proud Boys, who subsequently chased the Antifa group away.

During that pursuit, however, a man later identified as Varela stopped running briefly to turn around and open fire on the pursuing group with a handgun, striking one of the security group’s members in the ankle with a non-life-threatening injury, reports claimed.

The Examiner reported that the individual who was injured in the attack was later identified as Proud Boys member Tusitala Toese, and as KING 5 had noted, he survived the wound and fully cooperated with the investigation of the incident.

Bond set

According to the New York Post, though Varela has since scrubbed his online and social media presence, he’s reportedly made posts in the past that show his views align with Antifa and other extremist groups.

It seems he very nearly got away with his crime, too, except for the fact that the shooting was captured on surveillance video and he had been spotted shortly after the shooting attempting to discard his black clothing in an alleyway behind a church.

The 9mm handgun was later found after police executed a search warrant on a home he shared with his live-in girlfriend, Jessica Lynn O’Connor, reports said.

The Post reported that Varela is currently being held in the Thurston County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

He faces an arraignment hearing scheduled for Oct. 5.

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