Lansing, MI – The group of extremists who allegedly plotted to overthrow, kidnap, and execute Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also aimed to instigate a civil war they believed would result in the collapse of society, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) brought its monthslong investigation to a close on Oct. 8 by announcing the arrests of 13 suspects allegedly involved in plotting the violent overthrow of multiple law enforcement and government components, The Detroit News reported.
The group allegedly called on its followers to seek out law enforcement officers’ home addresses in order to target them, and held trainings and planning sessions in preparation for a violent attack on the Michigan State Capitol, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said.
“There has been a disturbing increase in anti-government rhetoric and the re-emergence of groups that embrace extremist ideologies,” Nessel told The Detroit News. “These groups often seek to recruit new members by seizing on a moment of civil unrest and using it to advance their agenda of self-reliance and armed resistance.”
“This is more than just political disagreement or passionate advocacy,” she added. “Some of these groups’ mission is simply to create chaos and inflict harm upon others.”
The FBI opened an investigation into the group earlier this year after hearing about social media discussions regarding the violent overthrow of law enforcement and multiple state governments, The Detroit News reported.
Fifteen individuals from multiple states met it Dublin, Ohio, in June to firm up their plot, according to investigators.
Among them was an FBI confidential source who recorded the secret conversations, The Detroit News reported.
“The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” according to the FBI’s report. “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 Whitmer,” the federal investigation revealed.
In order to recruit more people, one of the participants, 37-year-old Adam Fox, allegedly contacted a militia group based in Michigan that the FBI had already been keeping its eye on, The Detroit News reported.
The militia group, which was not named in the court filing, ended up on the FBI’s radar after a member became concerned about the group’s plot to target police and reached out to local law enforcement, according to federal agents.
“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],” court documents read.
Fox complained in a Facebook video in June about Michigan’s judicial system and the effect the state’s COVID-19 restrictions were having on gyms, The Detroit News reported.
He referred to Whitmer as a “tyrant b—h,” and said that the group had to “do something,” according to the court affidavit.
Members of the group allegedly scoped out Whitmer’s vacation home on Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan on Aug. 29 and over the weekend of Sept. 12, to include calculating how long it would likely take law enforcement to respond to the home in the event of an emergency, The Detroit News reported.
One of the suspects, 24-year-old Ty Garbin, later wrote in an encrypted group chat that they could demolish a bridge near the governor’s vacation home in order to slow down officers’ response time, according to court documents.
Fox and two other members of the group allegedly photographed and videoed the property as part of their surveillance, The Detroit News reported.
“We ain’t going to let ’em burn our f–kin’ state down,” Fox said in one recording, according to the affidavit. “I don’t give a f–k if there’s only 20 or 30 of us, dude, we’ll go out there and use deadly force.”
“Snatch and grab, man,” he said, according to Breitbart News. “Grab the f–kin’ Governor. Just grab the b—h. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.”
They allegedly discussed taking Whitmer to Wisconsin, where they said they would make her stand “trial” for treason and execute her prior to the Nov. 3 elections, according to The Epoch Times.
According to court documents, the group allegedly denotated at least one improvised explosive device loaded with shrapnel “to test its anti-personnel effectiveness,” then went and checked out the underside of the bridge near Whitmer’s vacation home to figure out the best place to attach an explosive, The Detroit News reported.
The suspects initially planned to hold one last training exercise in late October, but ended up postponing because of the November election.
Instead, they moved ahead with fundraising efforts to buy an 800,000-volt Taser, more explosives, and various other supplies, according to investigators.
It is unclear whether or not the group had selected another date to carry out the alleged kidnapping plot.
Members of the group were arrested during a meeting in eastern Michigan where they planned to exchange tactical gear and pool funds for more explosives, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge told The Detroit News on Thursday.
Nessel said that state and federal officers arrested a total of 13 people in connection with the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer.
The FBI said that the conspiracy specifically involved Fox, Garbin and four others – Barry Croft, 44, Kaleb Franks, 26, Daniel Harris, 23, and Brandon Caserta, 32, The Detroit News reported.
They each face a potential life sentence if convicted of conspiring to kidnap the governor.
Seven other suspects who are allegedly linked to the Wolverine Watchmen militia group have been charged under the state’s anti-terrorism law, according to ABC News.
They have been identified as 42-year-old Joseph Morrison, 42-year-old Pete Musico, 38-year-old William Null, 38-year-old Michael Null, 38-year-old Shawn Fix, 36-year-old Eric Molitor, and 21-year-old Paul Bellar, The Epoch Times reported.
Videos and images on Caserta’s since-deleted social media accounts showed him sitting in front of an anarchist flag and calling police “obedient order-followers,” Breitbart News reported.
At least one TikTok video showed him wearing a Hawaiian shirt – garb that is often worn by members of the antigovernment boogaloo movement, according to The Detroit News.
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and indifference to this notion is the means by which the people can and will secure their own oppression,” Caserta said in one video, according to The Detroit News. “Wake the f–k up.”
Although multiple news outlets described those arrested as being “Trump supporters,” Caserta never expressed any support for the President in his videos, Breitbart News reported.
“The Constitution is illegitimate,” he declared in one clip.
“Authority doesn’t exist, dude,” he said in another, while sitting in front of his anarchist flag. “Like, the law doesn’t exist.”
U.S. Attorney General William Barr explained during an interview last month that the boogaloo movement is not a “far-right” movement, The Epoch Times reported.
“Boogaloo is not radical right. And that’s one of the misconceptions that’s being essentially perpetuated by the media,” Barr said. “They are people who believe that the system, the current system, has to be torn down and completely replaced. People join it for different reasons, some have different visions of what the future should look like, but they’re all in agreement, it should be torn down. They’re anarchists.”
During an interview with “Good Morning America” on Friday, Whitmer blamed President Trump for the “ongoing” threats she and other government officials have been facing.
“There is ongoing rhetoric,” Whitmer said, according to ABC News. “Even the president last night in his tweet storm won’t stop attacking me, and I think that it’s creating a very dangerous situation — not just for me but for people in leadership roles who are trying to save lives all across this country.”
During a press conference just one day prior, the governor blasted Trump for allegedly “stoking” hate.
“Since he first called me ‘that woman from Michigan,’ we saw an increase in hateful language,” Whitmer complained during her “Good Morning America” interview.
She said that the President has encouraged domestic terrorism by being “complicit” regarding the threats she and other government leaders have faced, ABC News reported.
“Each time he has tweeted about me, each time that he has said ‘liberate Michigan’ and said I should negotiate with the very people who are arrested because they’re ‘good people,’ that incites more domestic terror,” Whitmer alleged.
“I am not the only governor going through this,” she continued. “Certainly, it’s been worse for me than most, but it is not unique to me, it is not even unique to Democrats. This White House has a duty to call it out and they won’t do it. In fact, they encourage it.”
Whitmer said that President Trump should have called her after the arrests to ask if she and her family were okay like presidential hopeful Joe Biden had done, ABC News reported.
“This was a very serious thought-out plot to kill police officers, to bomb our capitol, killing Democrats and Republicans alike, and to kidnap and ultimately put me on trial and kill me as well,” the governor added. “These are the types of things you hear from groups like ISIS. This is not a militia – it is a domestic terror organization.”