At least six men have been charged in a federal case in Michigan tied to a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The alleged plot involved reaching out to members of a Michigan militia to “violently overthrow the government,” The Detroit News reports.
BREAKING: Six people were charged in a plot to try to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court. https://t.co/W2KXsythPK
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 8, 2020
A group of men have been charged in connection to what the FBI said was a militia plot to overthrow the government of Michigan by kidnapping Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
A federal affidavit made public on Thursday revealed that the FBI had reached out to several members of a militia and discovered the plot to kidnap Whitmer, a Democrat who has outraged some right-wing activists with her strict coronavirus protocols. The FBI found that the militia was trying to grow to be able to carry out the plot.
“Several members talked about murdering ‘tyrants’ or ‘taking’ a sitting governor,” the FBI affidavit stated. “The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message.”
The FBI identified at least six suspects tied to the plot, including 24-year-old Ty Garbin, whose home in Hartland Township was raided by the FBI on Wednesday. The other suspects included in the affidavit are Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta. They were charged in the alleged plot and face up to life in prison if they are convicted. The bureau said that in early 2020, it became aware through social media that “a group of individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law-enforcement components” and that Fox and Croft “agreed to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution.” At least 15 men, including Fox and Croft, attended a militia meeting near Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year. A paid FBI informant attended the meeting and turned over evidence to authorities. That informant and other militia members were already on the FBI’s radar as the agency investigated threats against local law enforcement officers.
“The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the FBI agent wrote of the meeting. “They discussed different ways of achieving this goal from peaceful endeavors to violent actions. At one point, several members talked about state governments they believed were violating the U.S. Constitution, including the government of Michigan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer.”
“As part of that recruitment effort, Fox reached out to a Michigan-based militia group,” the FBI wrote. “At the time, the FBI interviewed a member of the militia group who was concerned about the group’s plans to target and kill police officers, and that person agreed to become a (confidential source).” At the meeting, Fox referred to Whitmer as “this tyrant b—-” and asked the group to come up with ideas on how to get to her. The FBI source said, and the bureau confirmed, that the militia group “periodically meets for field training exercises on private property in remote areas of Michigan, where they engage in firearms training and tactical drills.”
The FBI informant attended and recorded other meetings and calls, including one in June in which Fox said he needed “200 men” to storm the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, and take hostages, including Whitmer. Fox said they would try Whitmer for “treason” and would conduct the alleged operation before the November election.
During a Thursday press conference, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that seven more men linked to the “Wolverine Watchmen” militia group had been arrested and charged with state-level charges under Michigan’s anti-terrorism act on top of the federal charges. Pete Musico and Joseph Morrison were charged with making terrorist threats, gang membership, providing material support for terrorist acts, and felony firearm possession. Paul Beller was charged with providing material support for terrorist acts, gang membership, and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony. Shawn Fix, Eric Mallator, Michael Noll, and William Noll were charged with terrorist support provision and felony firearm possession.
“The individuals in custody are suspected to have attempted to identify the home addresses of law enforcement officers in order to target them, made threats of violence, intended to instigate a civil war, and engaged in planning and training for an operation to attack the Capitol building of Michigan and to kidnap government officials, including the governor of Michigan,” Nessel said. “It’s important to note that these charges are subject to change after a complete review of the evidence obtained last night and may differ with those charged at the federal level.”
U.S. Attorney for Eastern Michigan Matthew Schneider said that “all of us in Michigan can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever amount to violence.” U.S. Attorney for Western Michigan Andrew Birge appeared to the leave the door open for additional charges, saying that “the investigation remained ongoing.”
Whitmer held a press conference of her own Thursday afternoon, blaming President Trump for “stoking distrust” and fomenting anger” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Acting Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf wrote in a threat assessment released this week that “ideologically-motivated lone offenders and small groups pose the most likely terrorist threat to the Homeland, with Domestic Violent Extremists presenting the most persistent and lethal threat.” Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to the House: “We don’t really think of threats in terms of left and right at the FBI. We’re focused on the violence, not the ideology. Our domestic violent extremists include everything from racially motivated violent extremists … all the way to anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists — and that includes people from ranging from anarchist violent extremists, people who subscribe to antifa and other ideologies, as well as militia types.”
Whitmer has been increasing her own personal security protocols since the beginning of the pandemic, including adding an 8-foot security wall around the governor’s mansion in September. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the 1945 law Whitmer had been relying upon to impose sweeping restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus was unconstitutional, and Nessel said she would no longer enforce Whitmer’s executive orders through criminal prosecution.