Crime & Courts

Man charged in pepper spray attack attempted to recruit others to ‘storm’ Anchorage gay pride parades

Using multiple online identities, the man charged with attacking a group Saturday in Spenard recently sought to recruit supporters to "storm" upcoming gay pride events in Anchorage.

Bret F. Maness walked into a nonviolent protest training event Saturday at the Anchorage Community House, which is next to the Church of Love in Spenard, and blasted 11 people with pepper spray, according to the charges against him. Tips from surveillance photos led police to arrest Maness in Eagle River after a five-day manhunt.

Prosecutors said Friday that Maness is a white supremacist whose views motivated the attack and that others could be hurt if he is released while awaiting trial.

"The potential victims in this case are basically anyone who has a worldview that Mr. Maness does not agree with," said Assistant District Attorney Hazel Blum during an initial court hearing where the judge repeatedly told Maness to quiet down.

"He also has a history of posting, of being a presence on white supremacist websites, Nazi websites, anti-LGBT websites," she said.

[Anchorage man with violent history arrested in Spenard pepper-spray attack]

The case raises questions about the presence of active hate organizations in Anchorage. If the charges are true, was Maness waging a one-man campaign? Or are there like-minded people ready to follow his lead?


A review of the 53-year-old's online activity shows an affiliation with groups such as the Spenard Stormers and the Anchorage Stormers, modeled after regional chapters of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer Book Club.

"Spenard Stormers don't let a gay parade go by w/out trouble," that group's bio reads on the website The page includes a link to a YouTube video posted under Maness' name.

On social media, Maness posted often about his interest in bitcoin, President Donald Trump and his love of his Ford Crown Victoria — but also expressed support of Nazi imagery and white supremacist language.

Xavier Topkok, who said he attended West High School with Maness and played in metal bands with him, said he is unaware of any group of like-minded people whom Maness is affiliated with in Anchorage.

He said Maness is skilled at appearing to be multiple people online.

"This guy had 20 different profiles, OK?" Topkok said.

"Like you see within any supremacist group, they don't have that much actual members," he said. "I can almost assure you that it was just one guy doing this junk."

Even as surveillance photos of the pepper spray attack were being distributed by police, Maness appeared to be posting comments on stories related to the manhunt or calling for people to join supremacist groups at upcoming gay pride parades.

"B sure to join the Spenard Stormers at the gay parade," a commenter named ManessLaw Paralegal wrote Wednesday on an Alaska radio station website. Maness performs paralegal work and the Facebook profile for the commenter bears his photo.

An earlier post by the same commenter encouraged people to "join the Anchorage Stormers Book Club" at a gay pride parade June 16, 2018.

That is the date of the PrideFest parade in downtown Anchorage. A coordinator for the event said organizers provide security for the parade, anticipating potential protests, and this year will be no different.

"Especially with the climate in the country right now to be honest, we are prepared and ready to handle that situation," said J.J. Harrier, a board member for Identity Alaska.

Asked if police believe the groups are composed of other local members, in addition to Maness, and if there is any evidence of a planned attack on local gay pride events, Anchorage police had no comment.

"Because this is an ongoing investigation, we don't have any further information to release unless new charges are filed either against Maness or anyone else associated with him," police spokeswoman Renee Oistad wrote in an email.

The profile for the Anchorage Stormers group says it was formerly known as Spenard Wrecking Crew — a group Maness and others started years ago, before the other founders split with Maness. "We will storm the gay parade this summer in Anchorage!" the profile says.

Prior to his recent arrest, Maness was best known as a former singer in the city's heavy metal scene — although some musicians disputed his self-proclaimed title of "Alaskan godfather of metal." He was also known for shooting and killing a man in 1997.

In that case, Maness shot a black neighbor. He was acquitted but the sentencing judge said Maness was a racist who escaped conviction on the murder charge because of a key witness had been "a disgrace on the witness stand," according to a court transcript.


In his home, at the time, police found handwritten poems or song lyrics filled with racial slurs. "You little weasel slime, mother f—ing Jew spew bastard. Killing all my white brothers, I can hear your laughter," one read.

Another, called "Teenage Queen," read in part: "You know a white man don't tell lies. He'll shoot a n—er right between the eyes."

Topkok said he does not recall Maness singing such lyrics in performances but that Maness' remarks could be "politically incorrect."

"We used to have musical interests (in common) and people call him white supremacist and I'm half Native. It used to be a joke, 'How can you be a bassist in Bret's band and you're half Native?'"

Topkok said he started the Spenard Wrecking Crew with Maness and others. Originally a nonprofit that sought to raise money for charity, the organization had a Facebook group managed by Maness.

Judge Douglas Kossler set bail at a performance bond of $7,500 and an appearance bond of $15,000 cash/corporate. If Maness posts bail, he will be held on house arrest, the judge said, and not allowed to possess bear spray or pepper spray.

At his initial court hearing, Maness challenged prosecutors repeatedly, saying they were telling the judge incorrect information about his criminal history.

Alternately making bemused and exasperated faces, he listened and let out a breath as the charges against him were read. Terroristic threats. Assault. Burglary.


A victim in the pepper spray attack testified by phone, saying she was blinded for two hours. "We're just thankful he didn't have an assault rifle or we would all be dead," she said.

Wearing a yellow jumpsuit, his black-framed glasses perched on his head, Maness listened silently. He stared for long periods at news photographers, making eye contact with several people in the small jailhouse gallery, where no one in the audience said they had come to support him.

Kyle Hopkins

Kyle Hopkins is special projects editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He was the lead reporter on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lawless" project and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the ADN and ProPublica's Local Reporting Network. He joined the ADN in 2004 and was also an editor and investigative reporter at KTUU-TV. Email