Man accused in plot to kidnap Michigan governor allegedly told others to kill police who interfered
One of the six men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer allegedly told the others that if they encountered police during a reconnaissance mission, “they should give the officers one opportunity to leave, and kill them if they did not comply,” according to an indictment released Thursday. Brandon Michael-Ray Caserta allegedly gave that instruction in an encrypted video message, the indictment says.
A federal grand jury has charged the men. The indictment, released by U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge, levied the conspiracy charge against Adam Dean Fox, Barry Gordon Croft Jr., Ty Gerard Garbin, Kaleb James Franks, Daniel Joseph Harris and Caserta.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, Birge said in a statement.
The men are all from Michigan except for Croft, who lives in Delaware. Investigators said they were angry over Whitmer’s coronavirus policies.
The six were arrested in early October following an FBI investigation into an alleged plot to kidnap the Democratic governor at her vacation home in northern Michigan.
Defense attorneys have said their clients were “big talkers” who didn’t intend to follow through on the alleged plan.
The indictment includes allegations made during an October hearing, where agent Richard Trask testified that the men were involved with paramilitary groups.
Fox and Croft attended a June meeting in Dublin, Ohio, at which the possible kidnapping of governors and other actions were discussed, the indictment states. During the hearing, Trask said Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, was among those mentioned as potential targets.
Fox later met Garbin, a leader of a Michigan group called the “Wolverine Watchmen,” at a rally outside of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. At a meeting in Grand Rapids, the two men and other members of the Watchmen agreed to work together “toward their common goals,” the document says.
It describes live-fire “field training exercises” and other preparations, including the surveillance of Whitmer’s vacation house and the exchange of encrypted messages.
During one training event, “they practiced assaulting a building in teams, and discussed tactics for fighting the governor’s security detail with improvised explosive devices, a projectile launcher, and other weapons,” the indictment says.
They also allegedly discussed destroying a highway bridge near Whitmer’s house to prevent law enforcement from responding. In September, Croft and Fox looked for a place to mount an explosive charge on the bridge as they were on their way to surveil the house at night, according to the indictment.
The men were arrested after four members scheduled an October 7 meeting in Ypsilanti, west of Detroit, to meet an undercover FBI agent and buy explosives and other supplies, the indictment says.
Eight other men who are said to be members or associates of the Wolverine Watchmen are charged in state court with counts including providing material support for terrorist acts. Some of them are accused of taking part in the alleged plot against Whitmer.
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