Screenshots link USC graduate student’s email to user in white nationalist chatroom
A username linked to a USC graduate student’s email address was active in a chatroom used to organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. last year, according to screenshots obtained by the Daily Trojan and leaked chat logs.
The screenshots connect the email of Robert L. Walker II, a doctoral student in petroleum engineering and research assistant at the Southern California Earthquake Center, to the alias “n—onaut” used in multiple chatrooms on Discord, a messaging platform cited in a federal lawsuit against “Unite the Right” rally organizers.
A screenshot, shared with the Daily Trojan by former editor Razzan Nakhlawi, shows Walker’s email in a private chat where different users post contact information on Discord. Nakhlawi said she obtained the information in May from an unnamed source. A separate Twitter user posted a different screenshot also showing Walker’s email on Sept. 10.
The Daily Trojan was unable to independently verify the screenshots, but verified Walker’s email in USC’s student directory.
The username associated with Walker’s email shared graphic images of lynchings, used racial slurs and expressed interest in guns on Discord throughout 2017. The user also said he attended the “Unite the Right” rally, which resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer.
Walker did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and the Daily Trojan did not receive an official response from USC in time for publication.
The Southern California Earthquake Center told the Daily Trojan via a Twitter message that it relayed allegations regarding Walker’s account to USC administrators.
On Sunday, Provost Michael Quick released a public statement citing “recent online allegations regarding a USC graduate student.” He did not name the student and the Daily Trojan was unable to verify that the memo specifically referenced the username associated with Walker’s email and its comments in the chat log. In the memo, Quick condemned hate speech as “dehumanizing, degrading, toxic, and vile.”
“While we are guided by our unwavering fidelity to free speech, it is also true that we do not tolerate threatening or intimidating conduct, or any other behavior that jeopardizes the safety of our community,” Quick wrote.
Allegations that Walker was “n—onaut” were first made public via Twitter on Sept. 8 by activist Emily Gorcenski, who accused Walker of targeting her on Discord. Following the “Unite the Right” rally, Gorcenski said that she and other activists have been threatened and harassed by white nationalists.
“We were aware that a significant amount of this harassment was organized, coordinated, and fomented in private chats, particularly the Charlottesville 2.0 Discord server,” Gorcenski wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “When the messages got leaked, it became clear that ‘n—onaut’ made specific references to me in this server, at one point referencing the timestamp of a video I appeared in.”
Gorcenski said she decided to publicly denounce Walker, in connection to the username “n—onaut,” due to public safety concerns. She said she had been aware of the user’s identity since May, but was unable to independently verify it until nonprofit media collective Unicorn Riot leaked the Discord chat logs in August.
The chat logs show that in February 2017, “n—onaut” identified themselves as a doctoral engineering student based in Los Angeles. The user also shared their Skype and Twitter handle in the chat room. The handle coincides with an account on Github, a software development platform, linked to a “usc.edu” email used by Walker for academic projects, the Daily Trojan later confirmed. Gorcenski first posted about Walker’s Github account on her Twitter account.
According to his LinkedIn, Walker attended Marietta College in Ohio for his undergraduate education.
In 2008, a Marietta College student with the same name failed to appear in court in Ohio for a concealed weapon charge, a fourth-degree felony. The charge came after campus police discovered a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun, pistol and 1,000 rounds of ammunition in his car parked on school property, according to a local TV news station’s report.
A nationwide arrest warrant was distributed, since officials believed the student left the United States for Madrid, the report said.
According to the Twitter account “n—onaut” shared on Discord, the user is currently in Madrid and publicly tweeted about their arrival on Sept. 13.