A total of 13 men, including a dozen from Michigan with affiliations to a state militia known as the Wolverine Watchmen, are accused of plotting to kill police officers, attack the state Capitol in Lansing, abduct Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and commit other violence with the hopes of sparking a civil war.
The revelations come in a federal complaint against six men based on an ongoing FBI investigation and from state Attorney General Dana Nessel, who charged seven additional suspects with violations of state anti-terrorism laws.
“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 of the plot to kidnap and possibly kill her.
Based on court flings, reports and official statements, here’s what’s we know so far:
The FBI in “early 2020” began their investigation after reviewing social media conversations that included discussion of the “violent overthrow” of government and attacks on law enforcement.
The federal complaint, which may be read in its entirety here, was unsealed Thursday, Oct. 8 and the FBI case was built using undercover informants, secret recordings and social media activity.
In all, 13 men were arrested. Seven are charged under Michigan anti-terrorism laws and six with federal kidnapping charges. The federal charges carry a possible punishment of life in prison, while the most serious state charges are punishable by up to 20 years per count.
Brian Titus, a friend and lifelong acquaintance of Adam Fox, who’s been identified by the FBI as integral to the kidnapping conspiracy, said he allowed Fox to work and live at his Grand Rapids business, Vac Shack Vacuums, and had no idea the plan was afoot. “What he did is totally insane,” Titus said. “If I knew that I would’ve called police.”
Groups that have opposed Whitmer, including Unlock Michigan and the American Patriot Council, came out after the charges were announced and said they do not condone committing violence against government officials. “We’re happy trying to settle disagreements with clipboards and petitions, not violence,” said Fred Wszolek, a spokesperson for Unlock Michigan.
The plan to kidnap Whitmer and commit other violence began to form during a June 6 meeting in Dublin, Ohio, where about 15 people from various stated convened to talk about “creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self sufficient.” At this meeting, some in attendance s talked about murdering “tyrants” or “taking” a sitting governor.
After determining more manpower was needed to carry out any plan, Adam Fox, who’s been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, reached out to a militia in Michigan. Attorney General Dana Nessel said the militia involved in the plot calls itself the Wolverine Watchmen.
The FBI was already familiar with the militia. In March, agents began to interview members after concerns arose that they intended to kill police officers. At the time, one member agreed to become a confidential informant for the FBI.
According to the informant, the militia met periodically in remote areas of Michigan for firearm and tactical training.
During a phone call secretly recorded by an FBI informant on June 14, Fox indicated it would take 200 men to “storm the Capitol Building in Lansing.”
Fox, with assistance of co-defendant Barry Croft of Delaware, began communicating with member of the Michigan militia, including one of its identified leaders, 24-year-old Ty Garbin, in June. On June 16, at a gun rights rally in front of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Fox asked Garbin and other Wolverine Watchmen members to “combine forces.”
An informant and others met in a secret basement room beneath a trap door in Fox’s Grand Rapids business on June 20. He collected everyone’s phones prior to the meeting; however, the FBI informant was wearing a hidden wire that recorded the proceeding. Plans for the Lansing attack were discussed, including proposals to use “Molotov cocktails to destroy police vehicles.”
On June 28, militia members conducted a training on private property in Jackson County’s Munith. Following the training, those in attendance who were unwilling to participate in the attacks on government and the kidnapping of politicians were asked to leave.
Fox, Garbin, Croft and a fourth federal defendant, Kaleb Franks, attended a training exercise in Cambria, Wisconsin over the weekend of June 10 to June 12, during which Croft and Garbin practiced but failed at building explosive devices using balloons, gunpowder, a fuse and BBs for shrapnel.
On July 18, the suspects met in Ohio and discussed attacking a Michigan state police facility. After the meeting, Garbin suggested shooting up Whitmer’s vacation home instead of attacking the state Capitol.
During a secretly recorded meeting at Fox’s Grand Rapids shop on July 27, Fox discussed the possibility of abducting Whitmer from her summer home or vacation property. ““Snatch and grab, man,” he was recorded saying. “Grab the f***in’ Governor. Just grab the b***h. Because at that point, we do that, dude — it’s over.” He suggested using a realtor and other resources to map out Whitmer’s vacation home.
Following an Aug. 9 training in Munith, suspects discussed gathering at Whitmer’s Lansing residence and potentially blowing up her boat. During an encrypted chat from the same day that the FBI obtained, Daniel Harris recommended someone knock on Whitmer’s door and “cap her” when she opened.
On Aug. 29, Fox, an informant and another person performed surveillance on Whitmer’s vacation home. “We ain’t gonna let ‘em burn our f***ing state down,” Fox said in a secret recording from that day. “I don’t give a f*** if there’s only 20 or 30 of us, dude, we’ll go out there and use deadly force.”
Over the weekend of Sept. 12 and Sept. 13, suspects met at Garbin’s property in Lake County’s Luther where they detonated an improvised explosive using a firework, gunpowder and pennies in a field with dummies representing possible victims. The defendants also drove to the governor’s vacation to perform surveillance. While there, Croft suggested and was dissuaded from conducting “an act of violence.” “If you’re not down with the thought of kidnapping, don’t sit here.” Garbin said during the ride back to Luther.
On Sept. 13, the group discussed the possibility of acquiring explosives to destroy a bridge, planned a final training exercise in October and planned to raise money for the attack.
On Oct. 2, Fox confirmed he purchased an 800,000-volt Taser for $4,000 that was intended for use during the kidnapping of Whitmer.
Fox, Garbin, Harris and Franks planned an Oct. 7 meeting with undercover FBI agent to pat $4,000 for explosives and tactical gear to be used in the kidnapping.
Arrests occurred on Oct. 7 and included other suspects who are not part of the federal case. Those suspects are charged with crimes under Michigan’s anti-terrorism laws and include: Paul Bellar, 21, of Milford; Shawn Fix, 38, of Belleville; Eric Molitor, 36, of Cadillac; Michael Null, 38, of Plainwell; William Null, 38, of Shelbyville; and roommates Pete Musico, 42, and Joseph Morrison, 42, of Munith.
Musico and Morrison were arraigned Thursday and each ordered to be held in the Jackson County Jail on $10 million bonds.
As of Oct. 8, all of the federal and state suspects were in custody, officials said.
Since news of the planned abduction were made numerous politicians and others have spoken out on social media, including state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, who called the revelation “utterly terrifying.”
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