The Library Mall at UNT stock photo

University of North Texas officials were alerted in October that a self-proclaimed white supremacist had been active and engaged with students on campus in Denton, the Denton Record-Chronicle has confirmed.

Neal Smatresk, the university’s president, was told by professor and Denton City Council member Deb Armintor in early October that a student had confided in her that Jason Van Dyke was mentoring a UNT club, allegedly using it to send “dog-whistle” messages hued with white supremacist ideologies, according to screenshots of text messages between Armintor and Smatresk.

Now, the UNT Police Department is investigating the allegations about Van Dyke’s involvement on campus, said Julie Payne, a university spokeswoman. Payne declined to say when the investigation began or what exactly is being investigated, saying it would be “inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

“The safety of our university community is of the utmost importance,” she wrote in an email sent Friday evening to the Record-Chronicle.

Van Dyke is a Denton attorney and was once the lawyer for the Proud Boys, a national organization whose white supremacist activity has garnered international headlines. His social media posts include racist and hateful remarks, as well as threats of violence toward people.

Van Dyke has never been enrolled at UNT, Payne said.

Van Dyke is the registered owner of the nonprofit Texas Marksmen Inc. The organization appears to be affiliated with the UNT Marksmen club. The group describes itself as a club that “provides a safe place for UNT students to practice their firearm skills.”

His footprint at UNT has hit a nerve in the Denton community. Residents have publicly asked for officials to investigate how prominent white supremacist activity is at UNT and in the Denton area.

In the time since the connections were revealed over the past few weeks online, the North Texas Daily reported the club’s faculty adviser Craig Howard stepped down from the group Nov. 30. Then, the president of the club, Jason Armitage, resigned Dec. 11.

The student group told university officials it had “severed all ties with Mr. Van Dyke” on Dec. 7, Payne said.

Last weekend, Armintor circulated on her social media accounts Texas secretary of state documents tying Van Dyke to the university. She obtained those documents from another person who has sparred with Van Dyke, a retiree from Arizona named Tom Retzlaff, who said in a phone interview he supports most of the ideologies the Proud Boys endorse.

Van Dyke filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit earlier this year against Retzlaff, claiming Retzlaff prompted his ouster from two jobs in the legal field after Retzlaff told Van Dyke’s superiors and other officials that he is a white supremacist and Nazi and comes with a history of violent behavior.

Last week, Van Dyke filed a motion in court to withdraw his defamation suit, saying he does not have the resources to continue the legal battle in court.

In September, Van Dyke was arrested by Oak Point police on a charge of falsifying a police report. He allegedly told police three of his weapons were stolen from his truck. Police claimed he lied after Van Dyke’s roommate gave an alternative version of the story.

Van Dyke was taken to Denton County Jail, where he bailed out the same day after posting $1,000 bond.

The Denton County district attorney’s office filed a motion Friday to revoke his bond. Authorities there received an affidavit, sent from Retzlaff, who said Van Dyke in emails threatened to kill him the day after it was reported that Van Dyke had filed a motion to withdraw his defamation suit.

The complaint, notarized Thursday, prompted the district attorney’s office to form a motion to hold bond in Van Dyke’s case.

Van Dyke was tied to UNT in another way. For at least four years, he was the registered agent, as well as a board member, for the UNT chapter of the fraternity Theta Chi’s Alumni/Housing Corp. Van Dyke was listed on the board’s documentation with the secretary of state until Dec. 7, an official with the office said Friday.

Local members of the fraternity directed reporter questions to the national office of Theta Chi.

Ben Hill, a spokesman for the Theta Chi national fraternity, sent a prepared statement to the Record-Chronicle saying Van Dyke had resigned from the board of the UNT Theta Chi chapter “several years ago” and had no position within the chapter.

Hill did not respond to multiple attempts to ask him to clarify exactly when Van Dyke resigned, why he resigned and what direct involvement he had with Theta Chi.

UNT spokeswoman Payne also said Van Dyke has not been involved with the fraternity for “several years.”

The new attorney for the fraternity’s housing corporation is Dallas-based Vance Maultsby, who did not return multiple requests for comment.

Armintor has gone so far as to call for Smatresk to resign as UNT’s president if the university does not establish a policy to take direct action against hate groups. She said she wants the UNT Marksmen group banned from campus.

In addition, she said she wants an outside group, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, to independently investigate whether organized white supremacist activity exists on the campus.

“If you can’t show leadership in a situation like this, then we need to find someone who can lead the university through difficult times,” Armintor said in an email to Smatresk. “He’s always talking about tolerance. I’d like to hear him about intolerance,” she said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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