Over a dozen men have been arrested on both federal and state charges in connection with a failed plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, according to authorities.
Six were charged with federal crimes, and the other seven got state charges. They were part of two militia groups “who were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me,” Whitmer said in an address late Thursday afternoon.
All those federally charged face up to life in prison if convicted on all charges, authorities said.
Court documents identify the men as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.
The seven other men were linked to the Wolverine Watchmen militia, which sought instigating war and had “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,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
The arrests came from an FBI-lead probe that was established back in March, focusing on militia groups that talked about “violent overthrow” of some government and law enforcement officials, according to NBC news.
Whitmer thanked federal and state law enforcement for catching the group and bringing forth charges that “hopefully will lead to convictions, bringing these sick and depraved men to justice.”
“When I put my hand on the Bible and took the oath of office 22 months ago, I knew this job would be hard. But I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,” Whitmer said.
The government used a mix of informants and undercover agents to ruin the plan. Federal search warrants were sent to multiple cities across the state, according to ABC 7.
A member allegedly told the FBI the group was talking about killing police officers and decided to become an informant, according to NBC news.
Documents say the FBI was aware of the six men. There was a meeting in July, allegedly attended and recorded by the informant. The men “discussed attacking a Michigan State Police facility and in a separate conversation after the meeting, Garbin suggested shooting up the Governor’s vacation home,” authorities said.
On July 27, another meeting was held. Fox and the informant talked about possibly kidnapping Whitmer, with Fox allegedly saying, “Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f—ing governor. Just grab the b—-. Because at that point, we do that, dude – it’s over.”
According to ABC 7, the plan involved Whitmer and her second home, which was under surveillance for a bombing plot.
Governor Whitmer’s response to COVID-19 has been very controversial, since she put in place many restrictions on movement throughout the state and the economy.
The criminal complaint didn’t mention those orders.
Two of the alleged conspirators “agreed to unite others in their cause and take violent action against multiple state governments that they believe are violating the U.S. Constitution,” the FBI said.
According to U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan, the alleged conspirators used code words and encrypted sites to evade authorities.
“Fox and Croft in particular…discussed detonating explosive devices to divert police from the area of the (governor’s vacation) home,” Birge said.
Fox claimed to need 200 men to storm the Capitol building in Lansing and take hostages, including the governor, according to the FBI. This was to take place before Nov. 3, however it was later scrapped for the attack on the governor’s home.
Whitmer said President Trump gave comfort to those full of hatred, like the alleged militia.
“Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the state of Michigan; we will find you, we will hold you accountable and we will bring you to justice,” Whitmer said.
The suspects are due in court soon.
ABC 7 I-Team said based on their past decade’s reporting, ” This plot resembles similar attempted by previous Michigan militia groups, and Illinois militia organizations, in that the goal is to trigger a civil war by targeting law enforcement and government officials.”