FBI charges 6 men in militia plot to kidnap Michigan governor Whitmer
FBI charges 6 men in militia plot to kidnap Michigan governor Whitmer

Robert Snell

The Detroit News

The FBI says it thwarted what it described as a plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and federal prosecutors are expected to discuss the alleged conspiracy later Thursday.

The alleged plot involved reaching out to members of a Michigan militia, according to a federal affidavit filed Thursday.

The court filing also alleges the conspirators twice conducted surveillance at Whitmer’s personal vacation home and discussed kidnapping her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin to stand “trial” for treason prior to the Nov. 3 election.

“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.”

The affidavit was filed hours after a team of FBI agents raided a Hartland Township home Wednesday and comes amid an ongoing investigation into the death of a Metro Detroit man killed during a shootout with FBI agents.

More than 12 people were arrested late Wednesday on state and federal charges.

“A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

“We condemn those who plotted against her and our government. They are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The conspiracy described by the FBI specifically involved at least six people, including Ty Garbin, 24, whose home was raided by agents in Hartland Township late Wednesday.

The affidavit filed in federal court details probable cause to charge the six men with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer. Those identified by name include:

Adam Fox

Barry Croft

Garbin

Kaleb Franks

Daniel Harris

Brandon Caserta

Ages and hometowns for all six men were not immediately available.

The investigation dates to early 2020 when the FBI learned through social media that individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of several state governments and law enforcement.

In June, Croft, Fox and 13 others from multiple states held a meeting in Dublin, Ohio, near Columbus, according to the government.

Those present included an FBI confidential source who recorded the meetings. The source has been paid $8,600.

“The group talked about creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient,” the FBI agent wrote.

“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 Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

“As part of that recruitment effort, Fox reached out to a Michigan-based militia group,” the agent added.

The militia group is not identified in the court filing, but members periodically meet in remote areas of the state for firearms training and tactical drills.

The FBI was already tracking the militia in March after a local police department learned members were trying to obtain addresses of local law-enforcement officers, the FBI agent wrote.

“At the time, 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),” the agent wrote

In late June, Fox posted on Facebook a video in which he complained about the state’s judicial system and COVID-19 restrictions on gyms operating in Michigan.

“Fox referred to Governor Whitmer as ‘this tyrant b—-,’ and stated, ‘I don’t know, boys, we gotta do something,” according to the court affidavit. “You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do.”

Whitmer’s office did not immediately comment Thursday morning, but the governor is expected to deliver prepared remarks on the investigation at 3 p.m. Thursday on her Facebook and Twitter pages.

Michigan Attorney Dana Nessel is set to join with state police, FBI officials and the U.S. attorneys from Detroit and Grand Rapids at 1 p.m. Thursday to announce “details of a major operation” and criminal charges.

The criminal case comes after months of state restrictions on travel and business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The lockdown has been a lightning rod for anti-government extremists in this country, and Gov. Whitmer has been on the forefront of their targeting,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

In recent weeks, the state-owned Michigan governor’s residence received security upgrades, including the construction of a new perimeter fence.

The “perimeter security and other safety upgrades” were planned out last year, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in early September. They were scheduled to start in the early spring but were delayed until recently because of the pandemic, she said.

The cost for the “maintenance” projects at the Lansing residence, which was recommended by the Michigan State Police and the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, was about $1.1 million, Brown said.

“As a matter of practice, we’re constantly reviewing security protocols and adjusting as needed,” said Shanon Banner, spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police, in early September. “We don’t comment on specific threats against the governor nor do we provide information about security measures.”

Come back to www.detroitnews.com for more on this developing story.

Staff Writers Craig Mauger, Beth LeBlanc and Christine Ferretti contributed.

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