The small agricultural town of Dighton, Massachusetts, seems an unlikely place to have any impact on Ukrainian battlefield tactics or spread diplomatic fallout half-way around the globe.
But it was from here, an hour south of Boston, that 21-year-old air national guardsman Jack Teixeira is suspected of posting intelligence documents meant for the highest levels of the Pentagon to a Discord gamers chatgroup called Thug Shaker Central.
“It’s like God’s country out here,” said farmer Cam Levesque, 26, standing beside a pickup truck at the gas station. “We shoot guns, ride dirt bikes. Nobody says anything so long as you’re respectful about it. Everyone does what they want to do.”
Late Thursday, roads to the home Teixeira shared with his mother, Dawn, a floral business owner, were still blocked off. Neighbors said that Teixeira, who was arrested on a spring day and led away in handcuffs wearing red shorts and a green T-shirt, appeared to them quiet and polite.
On Friday, Teixeira will appear in a US federal court in Boston. The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, said Teixeira would be charged with the unauthorized removal of classified national defense information.
“Nice people – this is a shame,” said neighbor Mario Correia, adding that if convicted he might now face time in “Leavenworth”, America’s most famous military prison in Kansas.
Many in Dighton expressed surprise that their single-stoplight town known for cucumbers and squash had been invaded by federal agents in pursuit of a low-level member of the 102nd intelligence wing of the air national guard, based on Cape Cod.
“It’s the biggest news here in years,” said heating engineer Kevin Swist, 52. “It’s a small town and we like to keep it that way – smooth sailing.”
Teixeira could now be “in a world of trouble”, Swist said, adding it seemed “crazy” that the military gave “a young kid like that” access to so much classified information.
A Pentagon spokesman, Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, said it was the nature of the military to trust its very young service members with high-level duties. “We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age. Think about a young combat platoon sergeant, and the responsibility and trust that we put into those individuals to lead troops into combat.”
But there appear to have been clues that Teixeira held anti-government views. A Discord chat group member who spoke to the Associated Press said Teixeira was the “OG” – original gangster – of the chat group that numbered around two dozen members who conversed about guns and discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The AP source said Teixeira opposed many of the priorities of the US government and denounced the military “since it was run by the elite politicians”.
“He expressed regret [about] joining a lot,” the person said. “He even said he’d kick my ass if I thought about joining.”
At the 1712 restaurant in south Dighton, Joanne, a waitress who worked as a caterer in the Dighton-Rehoboth regional high school that Teixeira attended, said she couldn’t remember him. “If he was a troublemaker, I’d have known him if he was,” she said.
“I feel bad for the parents, too, because that kid is [in] a whole heap of trouble.”
His arrest came after news organizations Bellingcat and the New York Times identified Teixeira, followed minutes later by the FBI, which announced he was a subject of interest.
The raid involved eight drones, all of which have been neutralized, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has said