Cleveland, OH – A Cleveland man has been convicted of federal attempted kidnapping charges for trying to lure police in with a bogus call for help in order to ambush them and spark an uprising against the government.
Christian Ferguson, 21, was arrested on May 8, 2020, in connection with the violent plot, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Bridget Brennan said in a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release on May 7.
Ferguson planned to place a “fake distress call” in a remote area to draw in as many police officers as possible, Brennan said.
“Christian Ferguson’s plan was to lure law enforcement to a remote location then murder as many as he could in hopes of starting an ‘uprising,’” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Eric Smith said in the press release.
Ferguson also tried to recruit others to help him carry out “this cowardly and despicable act,” SAC Smith noted.
According to investigators, the FBI received a report from a concerned civilian in April of 2020 “regarding several violent and extremist” posts someone had made in an online chatroom.
The posts expressed “a desire to call in a false in-progress call to the police in order to lure law enforcement to a remote location,” the DOJ said.
The individual said that once officers arrived, they would be “robbed of their weapons and body armor and possibly killed,” according to the press release.
One month earlier, the same individual made other posts discussing buying “high-powered firearms, creating homemade chemical weapons and leaving a ‘calling card’ to promote media attention to his intended uprising,” the DOJ said.
He said he specifically wanted to target federal law enforcement officers because he believed they would be outfitted with higher-quality body armor and firearms.
The suspect also “made statements about tactical options for killing multiple targets and the disposal of their bodies,” the DOJ said.
“If we can keep 1 or 2 alive to get answers great but it’s not an objective,” one of his posts read, according to The Daily Beast.
The plot was intended to “inspire other militia groups” by using the media for attention, according to the press release.
The FBI identified Ferguson as the individual who made the posts and said he was also in charge of the chatroom where the messages appeared.
The FBI introduced a confidential informant into the online forum, and Ferguson also met with “multiple” confidential sources to discuss his plan further, according to the DOJ.
He even started conducting “practice drills with an AR-15” and carried out “reconnaissance in a dry run” on one occasion, investigators said.
Ferguson told the FBI sources that Washington, DC would be his “final play,” according to the DOJ.
The suspect placed a fake distress call at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on May 8, 2020 to gauge the park rangers’ response time, investigators said.
He said he thought four federal officers had showed up, and noted that if that many officers were to respond to the actual event he was planning, his group “would likely have to kill them all,” according to the DOJ.
Ferguson was arrested shortly thereafter.
A federal jury convicted him of two counts of attempted kidnapping late last week.
“Mr. Ferguson devised a plan, and took steps to see it through, that involved placing a fake distress call to lure responding officers to the scene so that he could violently attack them, steal their department-issued weapons and equipment, and incite various militias to similarly attempt to overthrow the U.S. government and its institutions,” Brennan said in the press release.
“Exploiting first responders’ most solemn obligation – to protect and serve – as a way of luring them into a violent ambush and inciting violence against our democratic institutions was cowardly, heinous, and, as Mr. Ferguson’s jury determined today, criminal,” she continued. “The community members who reported this plan, and the federal agents who worked to prevent it, should be commended for their actions. Lives were saved.”
SAC Smith also expressed his appreciation for the concerned citizens who came forward and alerted investigators about the violent plot.
“We wish to thank those citizens who advised the FBI of the hateful and violent feelings Ferguson held for law enforcement,” he said. “Ferguson’s guilty verdict will ensure he is no longer able to promote or commit violence against those charged with the solemn responsibility to stop it.”
Ferguson is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 27.
The FBI’s investigation into the suspect was a joint effort with the City of Cuyahoga Falls Prosecutor’s Office, the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Rangers.