WASHINGTON – Three members of what the FBI are calling a militia group bent on bombing an apartment complex in Kansas where many Somali refugees live are to be arraigned Monday on domestic terror charges, the FBI reports.
Federal investigators said they stopped the plot to detonate explosives at a Garden City, Kansas, apartment building where 120 people live. One of the apartments serves as a Muslim mosque.
Those arrested were charged in federal court, said acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall.
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Curtis Allen, 49; Gavin Wright, 49; and Patrick Stein, 47, were arrested in the town of Liberal, Kansas, on Friday morning, Beall said. Allen and Wright are Liberal residents; Stein lives in Wright, a small town just east of Dodge City. Wright is the owner of G&G Home Center in Liberal, Beall said. Allen works there.
The three men are being held in Sedgwick County. If convicted, they could face life in federal prison, Beall said.
The men are members of a small militia group that call themselves the Crusaders, Beall said. The bombing was scheduled for Nov. 9 so as to not affect the general election.
Beall said the investigation involved an FBI probe “deep into a hidden culture of hatred, violence” and what amounted to a startling plot. The FBI launched its investigation eight months ago, on Feb. 16.
“These individuals had the desire, the means and the capabilities and were committed to carrying out this act of domestic terrorism,” Eric Jackson, special agent in charge, said Friday.
Beall and Jackson, at the news conference, said the men were stockpiling weapons and were going to publish a manifesto after the bombing. One of the men said that the bombing would “wake people up,” Beall said.
They formed a plan of violent attack targeting Somalis and – after considering a host of targets, including pro-Somali churches and public officials – settled on the apartment complex, he said. They planned to use four vehicles filled with explosives and discussed parking the vehicles at the four corners of the complex and detonating them to “create a big explosion,” Beall said.
A cell phone would be used to detonate the vehicles.
In addition to the apartments and the mosque, the affidavit said “Stein, Wright, and Allen … discussed targeting churches in Garden City that have supported refugees.” Stein said one particular church “needs burnt to the ground.”
The men also talked about targeting “city/county commission meetings, local public officials, landlords who rent property to Muslim refugees, and organizations providing assistance to Muslim refugees.”
Beall said Stein met with a confidential FBI source in rural Finney County on Wednesday to examine some automatic weapons brought by the source from an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.
After trying out two of the firearms, Stein took the FBI source to see the Garden City complex the attack was targeting.
Stein told the FBI source he would provide ammonium nitrate for the bomb and that he wanted to contribute $200 to $300 for other materials, Beall said.
Three different times, a court document said, Stein did surveillance “on potential target locations around Garden City and other parts of southwestern Kansas.”
Stein and other Crusaders met in a field to avoid FBI surveillance, and Stein brought up the Orlando nightclub shooting.
“He proposed carrying out an attack similar to the Orlando shooting against a Muslim refugee location in Garden City,” the affidavit said.
While the investigation began in February and continued through last week, it ended abruptly only when local police in Liberal stumbled on to the plot when Allen’s girlfriend filed a domestic violence complaint Tuesday and spilled the beans. The girlfriend said she was battered by Allen and showed Liberal police a room in the home with a large amount of ammunition and components to make more and build firearms.
That night, officers stopped Allen and found ammunition, including an AK-47 magazine.
The girlfriend also told the FBI she saw a white powder being made at G&G. The powder looked like explosives, according to the affidavit. Then on Wednesday, a search of the mobile home business found a possible detonator plus items used to make improvised explosives, it said.
Police officers in Liberal estimated they found “close to a metric ton of ammunition in Allen’s residence.”
The defendants were “planning to take imminent actions,” said Jackson, the FBI special agent in charge. “They were committed to carrying this out.”
Jackson would not be specific about how the FBI got the information that led to the investigation. He described the defendants as being part of a militia with “sovereign citizen” ties.
Asked whether there could be more suspects, Jackson said, “We feel as though the individuals involved in this plot have been stopped and that the individuals’ plot has been stopped.”
Details from the affidavit also show:
- The three suspects “routinely expressed a hatred for Muslims.”
- A paid confidential source for the FBI had attended many meetings of a group that called itself the Crusaders. The members met as often as once a week and talked daily by phone. The source wore a recorder.
- The defendants allegedly believe that Muslims “represent a threat to American society,” and they wanted to “inspire other militia groups” and to “wake people up,” it said.
- Last February, while the source was “driving (Patrick) Stein around, Stein at various times yelled at Somali women dressed in traditional garb, calling them” racist and sexist slurs. Stein said several times that they “needed to eliminate” the Somalis.
- At a meeting in May, the document said, Curtis Allen talked about putting mocking signs around the necks of the people they targeted after “we blow the top of their head off.”
- In a May phone call, a frustrated Stein “said he wanted to get a .22, go over to Garden City, Kansas, start kicking in doors of the Somali apartments, and kill them one by one.” He would use a silencer on the gun, it said.
- Stein allegedly said he would use rocket-propelled grenades to blow up the targets’ apartments – “boom … I’m outta there.”
- Allen at one point said they faced “going to prison for life. We need to be pre-emptive before something happens.” Stein interjected: “When we go on operations there’s no leaving anyone behind, even if it’s a one-year-old, I’m serious.”
- On Sept. 13, Stein and the source spoke about the size of the container they would need to store their explosives. “Stein believes the trash cans (containing the explosives) should be in place at a mosque no earlier than three hours” before detonation “to avoid suspicion.”