FBI charges Tennessee man who attended insurrection with shooting at Knoxville federal building

By: - July 22, 2022 7:01 am
John J. Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville (Photo: Joseph Zanola for Google Earth)

John J. Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville (Photo: Joseph Zanola for Google Earth)

The FBI has charged a Tennessee man who traveled to the Capitol Building during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection with shooting at a federal building in downtown Knoxville earlier this month.

Mark Thomas Reno is charged in an FBI warrant unsealed this week in U.S. District Court with damaging federal property for allegedly firing upon the John J. Duncan Federal Office Building on Locust Street in downtown Knoxville July 3.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill McCook on Thursday ordered Reno, who lives in Jefferson City, Tenn., jailed without bond pending further proceedings in the case. He is accused of damaging three windows at the federal building — two in the lobby and one in the IRS office — in what the complaint describes as a drive-by shooting.

Reno, records show, was already the target of an undercover federal probe, though the reasons aren’t clear, when the shooting occurred. A tracking device had been surreptitiously placed on his vehicle prior to the shooting and, according to the FBI warrant, confirmed Reno’s vehicle circling the federal building at the time of the shooting.

FBI Agent Jessi Mann wrote in the warrant that Reno met an undercover agent at a “public event in Knoxville” in January. The agent did not say why. Reno had a second meeting with an undercover agent “at a public gathering in Knoxville” on April 26 as part of an “ongoing investigation.” The warrant does not detail the nature of the ongoing probe.

The April 26 meeting was secretly recorded by the agent. During their conversation, Reno told the undercover agent he “was part of a group called the Church Militant Resistance,” a Catholic militia group that vows to “resist actions that oppose the Catholic Orthodoxy and decency,” Mann wrote.

During the same meeting, Reno “made a number of statements about identifying targets and destroying property, including government buildings.”

“I mean, we have plenty of targets,” Reno told the undercover agent. “There should be no (U.S. Department of Education. Federally speaking, all education is done by the states why (are) the feds in on it at all? Department of Energy — don’t need it. I mean, the government’s here for defense, roads and privacy of communication. That’s all, that’s all it’s entitled to in the Constitution.

“It’s not entitled to do anything else,” Reno continued. “Get rid of it all … It’s (expletive) war. It’s war to the end now.”

Reno told the agent he attended the insurrection at the Capitol but used “multiple tactics to avoid detection, to include a fake walking cane, not bringing his phone and wearing glasses,” the warrant stated. “Reno further stated you should not bring your phone if you’re going to do something illegal because the government can track you.”

“I was there on Jan. 6,” Reno is quoted as telling the undercover agent. “I don’t sleep so good. You know, them (expletives) come for me, they ain’t going to take me alive … I’m claustrophobic … I’ll kill them. They’ll kill me. But I’m going to kill a bunch of them.”

Mann has since confirmed Reno “was, in fact, present outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021,” the warrant stated. “Reno can be seen holding a walking cane and wearing glasses outside the Capitol Building … To date, we have no evidence that Reno entered the Capitol or otherwise committed a criminal act (that day).”

damaging federal building case

Tracking device, pole camera key

The warrant says Reno was “placed under physical surveillance approximately 19 times” from April 20 to June 27. The FBI  installed a “pole camera” on a utility pole near Reno’s Jefferson City home on May 13. McCook on June 13 authorized the FBI to place tracking devices on two vehicles registered to Reno.

Reno was not being physically surveilled at the time of the July 3 shooting at the federal building. According to the warrant, a security guard at the Duncan building “heard two loud bangs emanating from the front lobby area” at 1:45 p.m. on that day.

“The security guard observed two broken windows in the lobby area and a third broken exterior window in the Internal Revenue Service office of the federal building,” Mann wrote. “All of the damaged windows were double paned. The exterior pane on each of the three windows had a discernible point of impact with radiating cracks from the point of impact to the window frame. The interior pane of each of the affected windows was undamaged.”

Using footage from the pole camera, security cameras located at and near the federal building and tracking device data, the FBI determined that Reno’s Ford Fusion circled the federal building, briefly stopped “in the vicinity of the United States Attorney’s Office” nearby and then traveled to an unidentified church “attended by Reno.”

Reno’s vehicle left the church minutes before the shooting. At the time of the shooting, the tracking device showed Reno’s vehicle again circled the federal building, slowing down “in the vicinity of the first damaged window in the IRS office,” sped up again “and then immediately slowed to a brief stop in the vicinity of the second and third damaged windows in the lobby of the federal building.”

“As (Reno’s) vehicle was decelerating to a stop, what appeared to be an object pointing in the direction of the damaged lobby windows was briefly extended and then retracted through the driver’s side window,” Mann wrote in the warrant. “Based on my training and experience, as well as my participation in this investigation, it appears that Reno fired a projectile out of (his) vehicle to destroy the windows in the federal building.”

Reno’s vehicle then returned to his home in Jefferson City, tracking device data showed.

“A review of location history for Reno’s cell phone revealed that his cell phone remained in Jefferson City on July 3, which is consistent with Reno’s statement to (an undercover agent) that Reno does not take his cell phone in order to avoid detection,” the warrant stated.

The warrant against Reno was issued July 15 but remained under seal until Reno was arrested and brought before McCook earlier this week for an initial appearance.

An inventory of firearms and ammunition found by federal agents belonging to Mark Thomas Reno.

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Jamie Satterfield
Jamie Satterfield

Jamie Satterfield is an investigative journalist with more than 33 years of experience, specializing in legal affairs, policing, public corruption, environmental crime and civil rights violations. Her journalism has been honored as some of the best in the nation, earning recognition from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards, the Green Eyeshade Awards, the Tennessee Press Association, the Tennessee Managing Editors Association, the First Amendment Center and many other industry organizations. Her work has led to criminal charges against wrongdoers, changes in state law and citations in legal opinions and journals. She was married to the love of her life for 28 years and is now a widow and proud mother of two successful children of good character and work ethic.