Ricky Shiffer was like a lot of MAGA “patriots,” often proclaiming his willingness to die for Donald Trump. Like seemingly all Trump fans, he was outraged that the FBI served a search warrant on the ex-president’s Florida estate, eager to declare “civil war” on “the Deep State.” Shiffer was such a True Believer that on Thursday, he tried to attack the FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, and ended up dying next to a cornfield a few miles away.
Shiffer believed he was dying a martyr to the cause. But his only reward was for the community of terminally online Trumpists with whom he spent his time to immediately denounce him as a “crisis actor” who had performed a “false flag” operation with the sole purpose of smearing MAGA people by association.
Ricky Shiffer’s self-portrait on his now-deleted Facebook page.
The 42-year-old from Columbus walked into the FBI’s security station outside its Cincinnati offices Thursday morning carrying a nail gun and an AR-15, and opened fire on the ballistic glass protecting agents inside with the nail gun, apparently out of the YouTube-fostered belief that such guns are capable of breaking bulletproof glass. After firing at the glass several times to no discernible effect other than setting off alarms that sent agents running in his direction, Shiffer fled the building and drove away in his car.
Shiffer was a prolific user of the Trump-sponsored social-media platform Truth Social. Somehow, in the brief time between when he attacked the FBI and when police caught up with him, he was able to file one last post, though it ended in an incomplete sentence as though he had been interrupted. It read:
Well, I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass, and I didn’t. If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops while
About 20 minutes after the attack, Ohio Highway Patrol officers found Shiffer parked in his Ford Crown Victoria at an Interstate 71 rest area. When they attempted to confront him, he fled down the freeway, police in pursuit. Police say he fired shots at them. He exited at state Route 73 and stopped shortly afterward near a cornfield. Shiffer emerged from the car with a gun and began firing at officers from behind his car. Police then engaged him in negotiations that went on for nearly two hours. When those talks broke down, police say they attempted to capture him using “less lethal” weapons, but when he fired on officers, they returned the gunfire, and he was shot and killed.
Shiffer was a true MAGA loyalist who had traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The night before, he participated in a pro-Trump rally led by the Proud Boys at Washington’s Black Lives Matter Plaza that turned into a violent clash with police, previewing the next day’s historic events. He also turns up in a number of photographs and videos of the mob that attacked the Capitol.
On Twitter, he later urged readers to support the Proud Boys. “Save ammunition, get in touch with the Proud Boys, and learn how they did it in the Revolutionary War, because submitting to tyranny while lawfully protesting was never the American way,” Shiffer wrote.
He also complained to Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene on Twitter about the 2020 election. “Congresswoman Greene, they got away with fixing elections in plain sight,” Shiffer wrote. “It’s over. The next step is the one we used in 1775.”
In more recent weeks, his Truth Social posts had become even more militant. “This country has never had a worse enemy,” he posted on Aug 5. 1776 was for far less, even World War II was for less.”
“Save ammunition and be ready and willing to hit the road as soon as you hear it has started,” he wrote the same day in a post liked by 24 readers. “Someone who wanted to be a hero could not have lived in a better time period.”
When the FBI served its warrant on Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Monday, Shiffer went completely off the deep end, joining the deluge of MAGA fans who immediately declared the search a case of political persecution by the “Deep State,” and proclaimed their desire to wage “civil war” against Biden administration “tyranny.”
That day, Shiffer posted a declaration of sorts at Truth Social:
People, this is it. I hope a call to arms comes from someone better qualified, but if not, this is your call to arms from me. Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop/Army-Navy store/pawn shop opens, get whatever you need to be ready for combat. We must not tolerate this one. They have been conditioning us to accept tyranny and think we can’t do anything for 2 years. This time we must respond with force. If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here.
An interlocutor asked him: “Are you proposing terrorism?” He answered:
Very important question.
No, I am proposing war. Be ready to kill the enemy, not mass shootings where leftists go, not lighting busses on fire with transexuals in them, not finding people with leftist signs in their yards and beating them up. Violence is not (all) terrorism. Kill the F.B.I. on sight, and be ready to take down other active enemies of the people and those who try to prevent you from doing it.
He also began reviewing his options for action and apparently considered heading to Florida in order to defend the ex-president from FBI perfidy:
I’m having trouble getting information, but Viva Frei said patriots are heading to Palm Beach (where Mar a Lago is). I recommend going, and being in Florida, I think the feds won’t break it up. If they do, kill them.
Another Truth Social user named Grizzly Mama was horrified: “Oh dear we can’t resort to that! Not now not here.”
Shiffer replied: “Why not?” He later expanded on the point: “It won’t matter if we don’t get violent. We see the courts are unfair and unconstitutional, all that is left is force.”
The attack was not a surprise to anyone who had monitored the kinds of extremist rhetoric that flooded social media after the FBI served its warrant, much of it from ostensibly mainstream Republican political figures and right-wing media such as Fox News. FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the rhetoric in discussing the attack with reporters.
“There has been a lot of commentary about the FBI this week questioning our work and motives,” Wray said. “Much of it is from critics and pundits on the outside who don’t know what we know and don’t see what we see. What I know—and what I see—is an organization made up of men and women who are committed to doing their jobs professionally and by the book every day; this week is no exception.”
As Laura Clawson has already explored, Shiffer’s actions were almost inevitable after weeks of radicalization among right-wing leaders about federal law enforcement, especially related to investigations of Trump, topped by their immediate declarations that the Mar-a-Lago search was an illegitimate attack not just on Trump but on all Americans.
Naturally, very few of these unhinged “thought” leaders were willing to discuss the attack on the FBI afterward. One of the only right-wing figures to do so, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, naturally continued to blame the FBI, apparently for being attacked:
I am sure this will now be the main focus, even though we have said repeatedly to remain peaceful and stay focused on constructive things that we can do. They’re now going to try to play the victim after they occupied Donald Trump’s home, a military occupation.
A handful of his fellow MAGA enthusiasts later saluted Shiffer for his martyrdom. But at the forums such as 4chan and the Trumpist site The Donald where much of the same conspiracist fearmongering that fueled Shiffer were generated and amplified, the response was largely unanimous: It was all part of a fake Deep State psyop operation, using a “false flag” to smear Trump supporters.
As NBC reporter Ben Collins noted: “Every top post on TheDonald is claiming the Cincinnati FBI situation is a false flag. They constantly agitate for these kinds of attacks and never, ever take credit for them. It allows them a permanent victimhood.”
The conversations at The Donald varied little in their conspiracist self-assurance that they were able to pierce the media veil:
Only one, and he was apprehended eh?
How convenient. It’s either a false flag, or one if the “boohoo- nobody’s doing nothing” commenters from this website, playing right into their hands
False flag. To lock it down further. We all know Trump supporters don’t do this. Wake up!
Its too bad that it wasn’t actual real and just another false flag by these faggot feds. They want so bad for people to react but its not happening so they have to make up these fake false flags.
Fake. They staged an attack on themselves to play the victim. It won’t work. No one feels bad for these faggots.
See how they always try to tie the two together? This is why why false flags occur, when they don’t get the response they want from their commie raids, lets scape goat a “crazy White guy with a Rifle” for further narrative control. Typical bullshit.
One of The Donald commenters summed up the prevailing attitude—namely, that it no longer mattered whether the attack was real or not, because they all could see the “truth”:
Exactly, I don’t give a shit anymore. They fired the first shot yesterday by attacking Trump. The line has been crossed, the game has begun. The tyrannical left is going to stop any nothing to put us into slavery so fuck it all.
The whole point of this rhetoric, as researcher Melissa Ryan told Insider, is to sow as much confusion and misunderstanding about the activities of the multitudes of far-right extremists who operate within Trumpworld. That’s especially the case when the inspiration for right-wing violence like Shiffer’s comes from so many of the same sources now dismissing his actions as a “false flag.”
“These folks have been calling for civil war, violent terrorism, harassment of the judge who issued the warrant, doxxing FBI agents,” Ryan said. “And then the minute violence against the FBI happens, they’re like, ‘Oh, not it, obviously it was a false flag, they’re trying to make us look bad.'”
As Columbus resident @almostdomi observed on Twitter: “Imagine literally dying for Trump, but then the entire MAGA movement just calls it a false flag.”