Federal appeals court puts judge's ruling overturning California's assault weapons ban on hold
FBI says it foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
A militia group planned to violently depose Michigan's government and abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), the FBI said in a federal affidavit filed Thursday.
"Several members talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor," an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. "The group decided they needed to increase their numbers and encouraged each other to talk to their neighbors and spread their message."
At least six men have been charged in connection with the alleged terror plot, identified as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. Their arrest was first reported by The Detroit News.
The FBI says it investigated the alleged plot through a combination of undercover agents and confidential informants for several months.
In a press conference Thursday, state Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office had brought additional charges in the alleged plot under the state anti-terrorism law against seven suspects not named in the FBI affidavit.
Nessel said the suspects were all in custody and had been linked to Wolverine Watchmen, a Michigan-based militia group.
"The individuals in custody are suspected to have identified the home addresses of law enforcement in order to target them," she said.
The plot, she said, had also targeted the state capitol.
The agency first became aware of the discussion of violent overthrow early in 2020 and found several references to murdering "tyrants" in online communications. Fox was allegedly tasked by others with touching base with a Michigan-based militia group, which was already on the FBI's radar due to an alleged plot to obtain local law enforcement's home addresses.
In June, Fox allegedly live-streamed a video to Facebook in which he excoriated Michigan's restrictions on gyms during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the affidavit, he called Whitmer "this tyrant bitch," adding "I don't know, boys, we gotta do something. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do."
The alleged co-conspirators met at a militia member's home three days later, according to the affidavit. An informant who attended the meeting said the group was told that anyone who was unwilling to participate in terror attacks and kidnapping should leave. Franks was the only one who left before the end of the night, but it did not appear to be in response to the ultimatum, according to the affidavit.
The alleged plotters participated in training exercises and combat drills later in July, including attempting to construct an improvised explosive device. In a July 18 meeting, they reportedly discussed an attack on a Michigan State Police facility, while Garbin later suggested a shooting at Whitmer's vacation home.
Fox again floated the idea of kidnapping Whitmer in a July 27 conversation, saying the best time would be while she was arriving at or leaving either her own vacation home or the state-owned governors' residence. "Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f---in' Governor. Just grab the bitch," he allegedly said. "Because at that point, we do that, dude - it's over."
Whitmer, who imposed some of the nation's strictest measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, said in May that she saw an "explosion" of threats as a result. Large protests featuring heavily armed demonstrators were also held at the statehouse.
The governor's residence implemented a $1.1-million security upgrade in September, which a spokesperson for her office said was part of "routine maintenance and upgrades."
In May, Robert Sinclair Tesh, a 32-year-old Detroit man, was charged with threatening to kill both Whitmer and Nessel.
"We understand that these times can be stressful and upsetting for many people. But we will not and cannot tolerate threats like these against any public official who are carrying out their duties as efficiently as they can," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement at the time. "You can disagree with their positions or their methodology, but you absolutely cannot act as this defendant allegedly acted or you will be charged criminally."
President Trump himself has railed against Michigan's coronavirus restrictions, tweeting in April, "liberate Michigan."
-Updated at 1:31 p.m.