A photograph from an August 23, 1992, article in The Tennessean about an effort to build “a Southern headquarters in Middle Tennessee for the Aryan Nations.” Patton is identified in the photo as “Damien Patton, left on couch, who pleaded guilty to the drive-by shooting of the West End Synagogue.” Photo illustration: Newspapers.com

CEO of Surveillance Firm Banjo Once Helped KKK Leader Shoot Up a Synagogue

Documents reveal Damien Patton, CEO of SoftBank-backed Banjo, admitted to being a neo-Nazi skinhead in his youth

Matt Stroud
OneZero
Published in
19 min readApr 28, 2020

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In magazine profiles and on conference stages, Damien Patton, the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of the surveillance startup Banjo, often recounts a colorful autobiography. He describes how he ran away from a broken home near Los Angeles around age 15 and joined the U.S. Navy before working as a NASCAR mechanic. He says he became a self-taught crime scene investigator and then learned to code. Eventually, Patton helped build the digital infrastructure of what would become Banjo, a company that, in the past decade, has raised nearly $223 million, according to the investment data-sharing platform SharesPost, from prominent venture capital firms such as SoftBank.

Patton has been the subject of profiles in dozens of publications; Inc. featured him in its April 2015 issue, and versions of his story have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Fortune, Fast Company, and the New York Times. He has told a version of his story to an online entrepreneurial program at Stanford.

With his long red beard, flat-brimmed baseball cap, and a penchant for motorcycles and off-road vehicles, Patton strikes a hardened, gritty profile among the hoodied techies of Silicon Valley.

Patton’s story and public persona are compelling. They are also incomplete.

Documents available to the public and reviewed by OneZero — including transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of records produced from a federal hate crime prosecution — reveal that Patton actively participated in white supremacist groups in his youth and was involved in the shooting of a synagogue. In an interview with OneZero, one of the people involved in that shooting confirmed Patton’s participation. Patton has not previously acknowledged this chapter of his life in public.

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Matt Stroud
OneZero

Matt Stroud is an investigative reporter and the author of Thin Blue Lie: The Failure of High Tech Policing. Email: stroudjournalism AT gmail